Watching risky behavior increases risks

March 8, 2011 at 12:05 AM

REGENSBURG, Germany, March 8 (UPI) -- A review of 25 years of research finds people exposed through the media to risky behaviors such as unprotected sex are at greater risk, U.S. researchers say.

Lead author Peter Fischer, a psychology professor at the University of Regensburg in Germany, said video games that glorify risk were more likely to prompt dangerous behavior than passive exposure, such as watching films or listening to music.

Fischer and colleagues examined U.S. and European studies conducted from 1983 to 2009 involving more than 80,000 participants ages 16-24, although some samples included older and younger participants.

"It appears from our meta-analysis that risk-glorifying media has potentially grave consequences, such as innumerable incidences of fatalities, injuries and high economic costs in a broad variety of risk-taking domains, such as substance abuse, reckless driving, gambling and risky sexual behavior," Fischer said in a statement. "These results support recent lines of research into the relationship between risk taking and the media."

For example, a study of 961 young adults found those who watched movies showing people drinking were more likely to drink more and have alcohol-related problems later in life. Similar finding were found in studies involving smoking.

The findings are published in Psychological Bulletin.

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