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Reality TV and soap operas trivialise problem debt, study reveals

1st September 2015 Print

Soap opera characters and reality TV stars are influencing people to borrow irresponsibly in order to buy items they can’t afford, according to new research.

The survey carried out on behalf of debt advice and solution provider Debt Advisory Centre reveals that the relatively modern phenomenon of soap operas is fuelling some people’s debt issues.

An overwhelming 80% of respondents believe that the portrayal of debt in the media encourages consumers to live beyond their means and buy things they can’t afford, and three-quarters say they don’t think that fictional characters use credit responsibly.

Almost half of soap opera fans agree that characters’ social lives – which often involve eating in cafes or restaurants and visiting the pub several times a week - don’t reflect the incomes of the characters they play. Moreover, two-thirds believe that soap opera characters with problem debt trivialise the stress of this.

EastEnders was named as the soap opera that is most unrealistic and least closely reflects the lives of real people, followed by Hollyoaks, Coronation Street and Emmerdale.

Melanie Taylor, a spokesperson for Debt Advisory Centre, says: “Being in debt is a very isolating experience and as a result people can often feel hesitant about seeking help and support. Unrealistic situations of fictional characters in similar positions may only make them shy away from seeking help for longer.

“Consumers need to have an access to realistic perceptions of debt and a clear and fair understanding of the consequences of its solutions.”