Time for Unhealthy Soap Characters to Really Start Feeling the Ill Effects; the Poor Lifestyles Provide a Bad Role Model for Many Television Fans
Byline: Madeleine Brindley Health Editor
DOT BRANNING has been named and shamed as the unhealthiest character to appear in a British soap opera.
The long-suffering, heavysmoking EastEnders character - previously known as Dot Cotton before her marriage to Jim - tops a list compiled by private healthcare provider Bupa.
And the company is appealing to soap opera script writers to start reflecting the effects of unhealthy lifestyles on their characters.
The appeal comes amid concerns that characters' bad habits could be influencing the real lives of the millions of soap fans.
Shadrach Dingle from Emmerdale, described as a "good-for-nothing drunk" on the television show's website, takes second spot on the Bupa list for his addiction to alcohol.
And Tyrone Dobbs from Coronation Street, who eats greasy takeaway food all the time, is in third spot.
EastEnders leads in the unhealthy stakes, with four of the top 10 unhealthiest characters - Dot, heavy-drinker Shirley Carter and her overweight friend Heather Trott and Charlie Slater, who has an unhealthy diet.
Bupa said despite the amount of alcohol, unhealthy food and cigarettes consumed by the characters on its top 10 list, none of them appears to suffer any consequences to their health.
Dr Peter Mace, the assistant medical director of Bupa Wellness, said: "Characters who have been smoking for many years have implausibly good health.
"Though Dot has a smoker's voice - deeper than you might expect - she does not seem to be short of breath or wheezy, while Shadrach should, by rights, have a red face with some broken veins that you may see with high alcohol consumption.
"If we tested his blood, there might be evidence of damage to his liver, though this can occur later.
"Tyrone consumes far too much saturated fat and does little or no exercise, which would realistically lead to high cholesterol levels which, in turn, may lead to heart disease. This might make him short of breath, and perhaps give him chest pain on exertion, though he may dodge exercise to avoid these symptoms.
"It is only natural that viewers are influenced by the everyday lives they see acted out on the TV, so we ask that soap opera scriptwriters portray the effects of an unhealthy lifestyle more realistically, such as in the way they've handled other medical issues such as cancer or Aids.
"The soaps are an important way of getting a message across, reaching out to millions of people on a daily basis, and 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. …