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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 September, 2003, 17:27 GMT 18:27 UK
Soaps accused of unhealthy habits
Eastender's Natalie and Barry Evans, played by Shaun Williamson and Lucy Speed
Barry Evans may be at risk of heart disease and cancer
Fans of television soap operas could be picking up unhealthy habits from some of their favourite characters, it has been claimed.

Dr Sally Cubbin of BUPA insurance said it was "only natural" viewers were influenced by what they see on TV.

She said characters like chain-smoking Jim Branning from Eastenders and hard-drinking Janice Battersby from Coronation Street were bad influences.

She urged soap script writers to try to improve the health of their characters.

"It's only natural that viewers are influenced by the everyday lives they see acted out on the box," said Dr Cubbin.

Soaps 'least healthy' characters
Janice Battersby (Coronation Street)
Fred Elliott (Coronation Street)
Terry the chauffeur (Emmerdale)
Jack Duckworth (Coronation Street)
Jim Branning (Eastenders)
Kat Slater (Eastenders)
Barry Evans (Eastenders)
Pat Butcher (Eastenders)
Les Battersby (Coronation Street)
Les Hunter (Hollyoaks)

"But some of the most loveable characters are also some of the unhealthiest and, while it's great to see the characters sharing gossip and news in the pub, viewers often see the whole cast gathered around the bar, supping away both at lunchtime and in the evening.

"Lunchtime drinking may briefly relieve work stress but if the characters are back in the pub after work, they're probably spending too much time with alcohol in their systems.

"As the TV soaps are in such a powerful position to influence people, a few more characters to demonstrate the benefits of a healthier lifestyle could go a long way to encouraging us to take better care of our health."

Disease risk

Dr Cubbin said characters such as EastEnders' Barry Evans and Fred Elliott from Coronation Street were putting themselves at higher risk of heart disease and cancer with their poor diets.

Coronation Street's Jack Duckworth, who had a heart attack three years ago, was still smoking, drinking and enjoying his fry-ups against his doctor's advice.

Dr Cubbin added: "The soaps give us great examples of supportive communities and take a grittily realistic view of issues such as teenage pregnancy and debt, so why not show us what can happen if you don't look after yourself?"

BUPA has drawn up a list of the 10 least healthy soap characters on British television screens.

It is dominated by Eastenders and Coronation Street, with four mentions each.




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