Mass Media And Population Health Essay

Mass Media And Population Health Essay

A Television program that has the potential to encourage unhealthy behaviors

Unhealthy behavior is used in this essay to mean any character which subjects human life to danger. There are several types of unhealthy behaviors, the major one is addiction. A person can be addicted to so many things, but the most common type of addiction is drug or substance abuse. This text unfortunately refers to a unique kind of addiction called sexual addiction. I have chosen on this type of addiction because it is one type of unhealthy behavior which is caused by viewing of soap operas. Addiction is referred to in this text as a strong desire for sex to an extent of abnormality. When one is addicted to sex, he or she is enslaved by it and has no control over it. Sexual addiction is bad behavior because it does not only lead to immoral practices like prostitution but it also put the victim into captivity. A soap opera is a continuous periodic work of drama full of fiction. It is usually presented in series either in radio or TV. There are many soap operas being televised in Australia currently, neighbors, discussed in this text is just one of them.


Neighbors is an Australian soap opera, which was created by Reg Watson in 1985. It has some erotic and violent scenes which can manipulate minds of young people thereby leading to unhealthy behavior. It is the longest running drama in the Australian televisions.

The setting of Neighbors illustrates the domestic lives of resident of Ramsay Street. Ramsay Street is a dead-end street with only one outlet and inlet and it has six houses which are built in a suburb called Erinsborough. The show is displayed every week at 6.30 pm in Australia, and it is produced by Fremantle Media in Australia. Watson had the idea of creating a show that would address stories which are real and depict adults and teens who are open in whatever they say to each other when he came up with the movie.

In the initial episodes, neighbor focuses on Robinson and Ramsays families. It portrays Max Ramsay, as a dictator who rules his family with iron fist. He has no peaceful relationship with his wife Maria and he keep clashing with his son, David Clencie who is very sensitive. Max gives a lot of time to his oldest child, Shane Ramsay, who also likes diving. Des Clarke is another resident of the Ramsay Street. She gets involved in a romance with Shane Ramsay. It brings into scene a character called Robinson who gets into problem in his family when her daughter, Lucy Robinson, starts to flirt sexually with her brother. Neighbors changed in 1990 when it became a conservative soap opera with topics like sex not mentioned quite often.

Potential unhealthy behavior in neighbors

The episodes broadcasted between 1990 and 1999 have a number of erotic scenes which could lead early sex among children and sexual addiction both in children and adults. For instance, the theme of sex is demonstrated in neighbors when Lucy Robinson also known as Melissa starts to flirt with her brother glen. Even though this theme could be interpreted by mature mind to discourage incest, Young children could misconceive it and take as a normal practice thus leading to incest. Incest is sexual relationship, between people related by blood and is forbidden by most cultures and prohibited by law (Shelley 1991).

The theme of sex introduced by scenes in these episodes could lead to sexual addiction. Shelley (1991) in their book, Sex and Love, identifies four different varying opinions about sexual addiction .These opinions includes the hypothesis self medication, cognitive or behavioral thesis, stress reduction theory and the last is the disease model.

According to Shelley (1991), the hypothesis of self-medication states that there is an underlying problem in addicts; the problems could be an emotional problem, psychological problem, or a mental disorder. So in this hypothesis, the addicts attempt to treat themselves by using their own discovered drugs, which in this case is engaging into sexual activities. In this case, the underlying problem seems to be cause of addiction as well as the driving force which follows the active addiction.

Stress reduction theory postulate that stress victims resort to use of drug or abnormal behavior as a way of reducing the underlying stress. Stress, in this respect is caused by other factors such poverty or domestic problems. The victim then looks for away to overcome the stress and then he/ she decide to engage in unhealthy behavior such as addiction for drug, rape and prostitution. In the stress reduction theory, the addicts use addiction so as to muddle through the stress in their lives.

Viewing programs which are sexual in nature on the television for a long period of time can lead to addiction to watch those particular kinds of programs, for instance, soap operas. This is supported by the cognitive thesis which states that addiction is response which has been learnt over time (Shelley, 1991). The cognitive therapists believe that process of thinking in people directs their emotions and states of their behavior. In other word when somebody watches erotic programs, they think about the act and this will eventually direct their emotions and behavior towards sex. Ones they start engaging in sex, they become captives of it to an extent that they cannot do without it.

Shelley, (1991) on the other hand says that disease model perceive addiction as illness. Somebody can be considered to be ill if he or she shows symptoms, etiology and course or progression of the disease in question, a disease should also have treatment and a corresponding response. Shelley, (1991) proves that love and sex addiction is a disease when he relates it to dysthymia, a mood disorder which involves sadness, nervousness, and behavior which is compulsive. He says that symptoms of this condition involves eating disturbances also referred to medically as anorexia, sleeping disturbances also referred to as insomnia, problems of concentration, reduced energy level also called hypoglycemia and lack of self worth. The victims of dysthemia also feel hopeless. The etiology of this condition is mainly environmental factors such as loss of spouse or job. This condition becomes severe if not treated in time or if treatment is delayed, that is to say that the prognosis improves with early treatment. Use of antidepressants and psychotherapy is very important in handling this condition.

It is evident from the above example that addiction and depression share most characteristics. They both have etiology, just as in dysthymia, the etiology of sexual addiction is environmental. In this case, the addicts get the condition through watching television programs containing erotic scenes. They (the addicts) then become addicted to watching the programs overtime. Some people, both young and adults, may attempt to practice whatever they observe from the televisions, and through repeated practice they become addicted to sexual activities. The symptoms of sexual addiction are similar to those of depression somehow, the addict is a captive of watching the program or sexual activity to an extent that he lacks interest in eating, Other symptoms include; nervousness, insomnia and lack of concentration just as it is in dysthymia. Addiction treated by psychotherapy and prognosis depends on the time the treatment is instituted just as it is in depression and dysthymia.

The theme of romance is also demonstrated in neighbors when Des Clarke engages Shane Ramsay in a romantic business. They embrace each other and also kiss in an erotic way and this could be very dangerous when it comes to sexual behavior development in children.

Another scene which could result to unhealthy behavior was displayed between 1985 and 1989 when Max Ramsay demonstrates his iron fist techniques of leadership in ruling his family. He has an unstable relationship with his wife and at times he shouts at her and even threatens to beat her up. This scene poses an absolute danger to development of healthy behavior particularly on children. Children may take the scenes of violence they watch on television to be desirable. They will then start engaging in war like activities with their fellow playmates as part of their play or as the proper way of life which ensures survival. This is definitely a harmful behavior.

In the book, War Is Not good for Children, (Cicchetti et al, 1993) cites “War is not good for children and other living things,” a phrase which was common in 1960. The book state that war has a great impact on the behavior of children and other living things and this is illustrated through use of graphs by ancient historians. This is evident in the following passage, written by Josephus (1959) in the book called The Jewish war (Cicchetti et al, 1993).

All human feelings, alas, yield to hunger, of which decency is always the first victim; for when hunger reigns restraint is abandoned. Thus it was that wives robbed their husbands, children their fathers, and — most horrible of all -mothers their babes, snatching the food out of their very mouths; and when their dearest ones were dying in their arms, they did not hesitate to deprive them of the morsels that might have kept them alive. . . . They showed no pity for grey hairs or helpless babyhood, but picked up the children as they clung to their precious scraps and dashed them to the floor.’ (p. 291)

The American Psychological Association (APA) together with the Applied Psychology Center (APC) in Kent State University formed a task force which would address the increased number of the negative psychological psychosocial and psychobiological effects which usually come about as a result of stress during war time (Cicchetti et al, 1993). The APA and APC did this when they were responding to the findings of the clinical and experimental investigations. The task force was formed so as to propose recommendations which could lead to prevention of the stress full conditions caused by the war and intervention on the stressful reactions. The task force was also supposed to come up with guide lines which could lead the policy makers, the individuals who were affected by the wars directly, and the professionals who deal with mental health.

According to the report produced by the task force, traumatic reactions which are related to war occur together with other stress factors such as violence in the community, persistent poverty, and abnormal treatment of children which include beating them up (Cicchetti et al, 1993). This can be related to the violent scenes shown in neighbors when the children watch the program and they start applying the tactics on other children when they are playing. The children being bitten by their counterparts fill frustrated, they get depressed and start developing unhealthy behavior when they hit back or engage in addictive behaviors like substance abuse. In addition, the task force found out that guilt and shame, drug abuse, inability to forget scenes of horror, concentration impairment, and social isolation among others are the potential stress reactions, which are prevalent on the individuals when they respond to violence (Cicchetti et al, 1993).

Advocacy strategy to reduce unhealthy behavior

Considering the facts discussed in this text, the following advocacy strategy could be used as guide lines so as to reduce unhealthy behavior:

Samuel et al (2003) gave a guideline on strategy which could be used to reduce unhealthy behavior. Firstly, they suggested that proper guidelines on what programs to be watched on televisions should put in place, and to add on this, the time to watch the program in question should be well defined by the authorities, this will ensure age restriction on watching programs which could be unhealthy to children.

Secondly, focus should be made on the environment instead of spending a lot of time on problems and behaviors of individual. This can be done by banning airing of soap operas in order to prevent public access to erotic scenes in the televisions.

Thirdly, the issue (addiction) should be brought to the public domain for discussion. The controversial topics such allowing viewing of erotic movies with children and banning such programs should be proposed so as to initiate dialogue within the public and the community levels.

Fourthly, strategies which are culturally sensitive and involve communities at the grassroots can be used to identify the problems and the solutions.

Apart from using the above guiding principles, the proposed strategies can be implemented by implementing changes from the county level or local city and proceed to state and federal levels. Community based- organizations and after- schools can also be used to assist in directing the intervention strategies. The message should be tailored towards particular audiences and cultures. For example, children used to deliver messages that capture their interests; this will enable them to be part of public debates thereby incorporating their opinions when final decisions are finally made. Young people should be employed as advocates in interventions which are meant to be peer to peer. Interests of teenagers should be included in the entertainment industry and their roles considered as entertainers by including more educative programs which are also entertaining like cartoons in the televisions programs.

Several strategies can be applied which can be used to shape opinions of the public. They range from highlighting on the television programs which can potentially undermine parental authority to identifying programs which besides being entertaining are also educative. Campaigns should also be organized to educate the National Conference of Legislators and upgrade their awareness on the negative impacts of showing erotic movies on televisions. This is essential because the legislators are trusted by their constituents and what they say to the public usually create a lot of impact.

The government should formulate policies which regulate the extent of program meant for viewing by the public on televisions. The policies should include limiting the access of erotic material on electronic and printed media, and establish the best guidelines broadcast entertainment to children.

Then major audiences and stake holders who have to be involve for the program to be successful in changing the public’s attitude toward watching program with erotic material reflects the sectors in the society which are closely related to entertainment and psychological health.

The entertainment industry should make the public aware when erotic materials are shot on television programs for viewing in the public. Insurance companies should be involved in the designing the programs meant for entertainment on televisions since they will have to meet the cost of treating the addicts. Parent will feel the effects of exposing their children to material which subject the children to seeing material which have the potential to damage their behavior. The parents should work in partnership with researchers to enable them establish how children respond to love and sexual addiction.

Youth and community on the other hand can be involved in monitoring the television stations which air unhealthy programs. In doing this, they should work together with parents and elected leaders to identify the best public response and engage in a response which counters the broadcasting of such programs. Their response can include protest against the program in question.

Schools can implement policies to reject sponsorships from broadcasting companies which televise programs which are harmful to the health of student or youths. They can also implement social education with specific focus on sexual health. There should also be counselors or psychotherapist in schools who deals with eventualities of addictions. Policy makers should institute legislations that protect population which is vulnerable from viewing material which could compromise their health.

Health professionals can intervene by conducting research about the effects of media on behavioral development and explain the consequences of unhealthy behavior cause by watching erotic programs. They can also educate the community and act as advocates for issues concerning community health. Non-governmental organization should also contribute in the reduction of unhealthy behavior by funding research, which investigates unhealthy behavior, community organizing, and advocacy concerning this issue.


From the above study, it can be concluded that even though soap operas are entertaining and can be so educative if interpreted rightfully, they may contain some unhealthy scenes if misconceived. To avert this, appropriate measures should be put in place by the authorities to ensure that whatever is broadcasted through electronic media is screened for any erotic material. Parents should always direct their children on whatever to watch or not to watch on the televisions. Community and the youth are the major stake holders in ensuring healthy behavior in the society. They should therefore take an active role in sensitizing the society on programs which in their discretion does not seem to be healthy in the development of behavior. In fighting the unhealthy behavior among students, schools, colleges and/ Universities should include topics which cover responsible watching of televisions and sex education in their curricula. The insurance companies should take part in the formulation of policies governing entertainment. They should also help in organizing public awareness programs which sensitize the public on the possible sequel of watching programs containing scenes which displays harmful behaviors. The program discussed in this essay, Neighbors, is so entertaining and quite educative to adults but I would recommend to children or any person who is not mature enough to internalize the scene in a responsible manner. Following the remarks included in this essay Neighbors should either be re-edited and sections which contain harmful scenes be removed, or it be banned from television display that is if it is to be viewed by the general public including children.


Cicchetti, D., Sheree L. T and Michael L. (1993) The Psychological Effects of War and Violence on Children. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Page .41.

Samuels, S.E., Lisa, C., Lori, D, Marnie, P and Marion, B. (2003) Food And Beverage Industry Marketing Prices Aimed at Children: Developing Strategies for Preventing Obesity and Diabetes. A partner of Healthier Communities .p.10-17

Shelley, E.G. (1991) Sex and Love: Addiction, Treatment, and Recovery. : Westport, CT: Praeger, p.5-33

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