J Epidemiol Community Health 61:575-577 doi:10.1136/jech.2006.050757
  • Evidence based public health policy and practice

Portrayal of health-related behaviours in popular UK television soap operas

  1. T Verma,
  2. J Adams,
  3. M White
  1. Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr J Adams
 Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4HH, UK; j.m.adams{at}
  • Accepted 16 October 2006


Background: Evidence suggests that health-related story lines in popular television programmes may lead to increased viewer knowledge or behaviour change. However, little is currently known about the portrayal of common health-related behaviours on UK television soap operas.

Methods: The portrayal of 11 key health-related behaviours on the 4 most popular soap operas set and broadcast in the UK over 4 weeks in spring 2005 was assessed.

Results: Seven of the 11 behaviours of interest were recorded a total of 959 times during 32 h of programming (or 30 behaviours per programming hour). The behaviour most frequently recorded was alcohol-related behaviours, recorded 619 times (19.3 per programming hour). No instances of four behaviours of interest were observed: driving soon after drinking, drinking during pregnancy, smoking during pregnancy or smoking around children.

Conclusions: Popular television serials offer the chance to portray “healthy” behaviours as normal, and so help change attitudes and shape behavioural norms among the viewing public. Engaging the makers of these programmes in a health promotion agenda may be a fruitful method of promoting healthy behaviours.


  • Competing interests: None.