British Psychological Society: Idolising rock stars can be bad for your health

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The Independent Online
An obsession with Take That or the Spice Girls may be innocent enough when you're 14 years old. Carry the fixation into your twenties, however, and your teen idol can become bad for your health.

Revering famous stars such as Gary Barlow, supermodel Naomi Campbell, or footballer Alan Shearer, into adulthood, increases your chance of psychological problems, eating disorders and problems forming relationships.

"It can be a way of avoiding rather than dealing with problems," said Dr Tony Cassidy, a psychologist at Nene College, Northampton.

He looked at 163 adults in a pilot study. During adolescence, three-quarters of men and women in the group, now aged between 20 and 28, said they had hero-worshipped someone.

Most people throw off their fixation by their twenties, but Dr Cassidy told the annual conference of the British Psychological Society in Edinburgh that half of those who had idols could not let their feelings go. Those who remained loyal fans tended to be more preoccupied with their weight, and this was particularly true for women. They also disliked their appearance more.

"Another aspect of teen idols is that they serve as models," said Dr Cassidy. "Many young girls develop distorted body images of themselves and ultimately eating disorders as a result of the media portrayal of supermodels with ideal bodies."

The obsessives tended to be less satisfied with their relationships and were more likely to have short-term affairs. The most extreme fantasised about having a relationship with their adored one or became jealous of their idol's partners.

"It is clear that for many this phase becomes extreme, as was recently demonstrated by a number of attempted suicides among fans of the pop group Take That after the group split up," added Dr Cassidy.

But parents should not rush to the bedroom to rip down their children's posters.

There was one bright spot for fans who did have a teen idol but who gave it up when they reached adulthood - they were subsequently better at problem- solving."[Having an idol] showed a use of imagination which is generally recognised as part of the developmental process," said Dr Cassidy.