Soaps revealed to be cleaner than real life

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Every soap opera enthusiast knows that gritty plot lines are what make the programmes so addictive. But new research has found that Britain's most popular soap, EastEnders, may not be as down-to-earth as commonly supposed. In fact, the scriptwriters underplay the amount of infidelity and paid-for sex that people experience in real life.

The surprising finding comes from a study of the long-running BBC soap by New Scientist magazine, which discovered that the series is comparatively tame when measured against the findings of British social surveys.

Researchers found that over the 18 years the series has been running, 2 per cent of women and 1.7 per cent of men in Albert Square cheated on their partners. In real life, 14.6 per cent of British men aged between 16 and 44, and 9 per cent of women in the same age range were unfaithful each year.

The "average" measurement is important – the past year in Albert Square has seen an upsurge in infidelity as the series struggles to keep up with its rivals. Over the past 12 months, 39 per cent of men with partners and 35 per cent of women were unfaithful at some point.

Statistically, 0.18 per cent of EastEnders men paid for sex; in real life the figure is 4.3 per cent per year.

Murder is one area where fiction is a lot worse than fact. The homicide rate in EastEnders is 0.22 per cent per year, compared with 0.0016 per cent in the real population.