Health-Relevant Behaviors in Media1


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    The authors thank Video Library, Melissa Boyd, Larren Holbert, and Chris Castilla for assistance in data collection and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. Preliminary analyses of some of the data in this article were presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy, San Francisco, California, November 1990.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Lisa Terre, Department of Psychology, 5319 Holmes, University of Missouri, Kansas City, MO 64110–2499 or Ronald Drabman, University of Mississippi School of Medicine, Jackson, MS 39216–4505.


The content of the past decade's (1977–1988) most popular films is analyzed for trends in portrayals of multiple health practices (cigarette smoking, over-the-counter or prescription drug use, illegal drug use. alcohol consumption, leisure-time physical activity, and poor eating habits) as well as model characteristics and consequences associated with health-related lifestyle. The results reveal a recent upsurge in depictions of several risky habits, yet few portrayals of direct adverse consequences. There was a particular tendency for males and minorities to be shown engaged in behaviors detrimental to their health. The social learning, public health, and social policy implications of these findings are discussed.