Research Article

The aftermath of Angie's overdose: is soap (opera) damaging to your health?

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987; 294 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.294.6577.954 (Published 11 April 1987) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987;294:954
  1. S Platt

    Abstract

    In a study designed to evaluate the behavioural impact of a fictional parasuicide--namely, Angie's overdose on the popular television soap opera EastEnders--information about cases of deliberate overdose treated in accident and emergency departments in 63 hospitals throughout Britain was obtained for the week after the televised overdose (experimental period) and the week before the overdose (control period). After adjusting for trends in the equivalent weeks in a control year (1985) the increase in the cases of parasuicide treated by hospitals during the experimental week was not found to be significant. A significant increase (31%) was found among people aged greater than or less than 45, but this is not thought to be reliable. The increase among women alone (21%) was significant with a one tailed test. Contrary to expectations there was a positive association between trends in overdose and distance from London--that is, the further the distance of the region from London the greater the increase in cases of overdose during the experimental period--and a negative association between trends in overdose and viewing figures--that is, the higher the viewing figure the less the impact on the incidence of overdoses. These findings do not lend support to the claim that there was a strong imitation effect after this televised parasuicide.