TV Viewing Distorts Health Perceptions


A new study from the University of Rhode Island is showing that medical dramas on TV and news can lead individuals to be overly concerned with personal health and may reduce a person’s satisfaction with life.

Yinjiao Ye, assistant professor of communications studies found that TV viewing affects young adult’s awareness of health risks and may lead to misinformed beliefs regarding personal health and can lead individuals to be overly concerned with personal health.

Millions of TV viewers watch certain medical shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “House,” and there is now evidence that the mass media is very powerful in disseminating health knowledge and changing health attitudes and behaviors through such programming.


Many people gain important information and knowledge about health risks from the mass media and this creates a double-edged sword as it appears as people become more knowledgeable, they enjoy life less.

Researchers feel that because of this knowledge, it tends to lead people to think they are more likely to suffer from the maladies presented on TV. Researchers also noted that life dissatisfaction is the reason why people watch so much television and they feel it is not the best solution for coping with being unhappy. They suggest socializing and exercise as healthier options.

The URI professor surveyed 274 students in the College of Communications at the University of Alabama about their TV viewing and life satisfaction. The students were not told the purpose of the survey. The surveyed students ranged in age from 18 to 31, a youthful group associated with good health and vitality. “While this surveyed group shows dissatisfaction, I suspect that if I surveyed a more general population the dissatisfaction would be even higher,” says the researcher.

It seems like we are literally living ourselves sick, and television plays a large role in this downward spiral. The study was conducted on a small group of students at just one university so the study’s results should be considered tentative at this time, until confirmed by a larger and more diverse future study.