Teenagers are exposed to at least 10 incidents of Pain per hour, Study

Teenagers are exposed to at least 10 incidents of Pain per hour, Study


The study found that popular shows like Sex Education,  and Stranger Things tend to show pain as only arising from violent acts or injuries. This ignores everyday pain experiences, not teaching teenagers effectively.

The study was published in the international journal Pain, led by researchers from the University of Calgary (Canada) and The University of Bath (UK), and has revealed concerning trends in the portrayal of pain in adolescent TV and film on Netflix.

Analyzing media aimed at 12 to 18-year-olds, researchers found that adolescents are exposed to an average of 10 incidents of pain per hour. The study aimed to understand how characters experience pain and how others around them respond to it. These shows can help teens learn about managing pain and showing empathy by depicting it realistically instead of trivialising it.

From an analysis of over 60 hours of footage from 10 popular films and six TV series featuring adolescent protagonists in North America from 2015, researchers found:

  • There were 732 painful incidents, averaging 10.24 incidents of pain per hour.
  • Violent pain or injury was the most common type, occurring in 57% of instances.
  • Boys were more likely to experience pain than girls (77%).
  • Boys were twice as likely as girls to help sufferers and were often portrayed as heroic figures.
  • Girls were depicted as more emotional in response to witnessing pain.
  • White characters were more frequently depicted as pain sufferers (78%) compared to characters with a racialized identity (22%).
  • Racialized characters experiencing pain were more likely to have it caused by another person (80%).
  • Everyday pain examples were less common (21%) compared to violent pain.
  • Chronic-type pain incidents were extremely rare (less than 1%).
  • There was a general lack of empathy from other characters in responding to pain, with criticism (24%) and humour (10%) being common reactions.

Dr. Abbie Jordan of the Department of Psychology and Centre for Pain Research at The University of Bath, said, “This research matters because if every film and television series shows a boy being a “tough guy” when they experience pain and a girl as a “damsel in distress” in need of saving, they might think they have to be like that in real life. This depiction reinforces old-fashioned ideas about gender and is misleading.”

Related: Media Psychology: Influence of Media on Behavior and Perception

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