Using Health Conditions for Laughs and Health Policy Support: The Case of Food Allergies.

Abo MM, Slater MD, Jain P
Health Commun 32 803-811 07/01/2017

Abstract

Health conditions are sometimes included in entertainment media comedies as a context for and as a source of humor. Food allergies are a typical case in point: They are potentially life-threatening yet may be used in humorous contexts. We conducted a content analysis of food allergies in entertainment media and tested the effects of humorous portrayals from an exemplar entertainment program. The content analysis confirmed that when food allergies were portrayed in television and the movies, it was most frequently in a humorous context and often contained inaccurate information. A follow-up experiment showed viewing a humorous portrayal of food allergies had an indirect negative effect on related health policy support via decreased perceived seriousness of food allergies. Inclusion of an educational video eliminated this effect on reduced policy support, with cognitive dissonance as a mediator. Findings support the hypothesis that portraying a health condition in a humorous context may reduce perceptions of seriousness and willingness to support public health policies to address risks associated with the condition, supporting and extending prior research findings.

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