Fictional depictions of gout on television may perpetuate inaccurate beliefs about the causes and treatments for the disease, according to the results of a study published in Arthritis Care & Research.
The study was designed to evaluate whether depictions of gout on television, which often portray the cause of gout to be overindulgence in food and alcohol, affect community perception.
Researchers from the University of Auckland in New Zealand enrolled participants in a randomized single-blind controlled trial. Participants were randomly assigned 1:1 to watch a 19-minute television comedy episode of the show “Everybody Hates Chris” that depicted instances of gout or another episode that did not depict gout. The participants responded to questions about their perceptions of gout; a 11-point Likert scale and the Brief Illness Perception Questionnaire (BIPQ) were used to measure perceptions.
A total of 200 participants were included in the study, with a mean age of 29 years; 76.5% were women; 56.5% were New Zealand European; and 18% had a family or friend who was diagnosed with gout.
On the BIPQ, the viewers of the gout vs nongout episode thought they had greater understanding of gout (mean difference [MD], 1.2; 95% CI, 0.6-1.8; P <.001), that gout would have consequences in their life (MD, 0.9; 95% CI, 0.5-1.3; P <.001), and that gout would have a shorter duration of effect (MD, -1.7; 95% CI, -2.3 to -1.2; P <.001).
When asked about the most important cause of gout, viewers of the gout vs nongout episode were more likely to think gout was caused by diet (70% vs 38%; P <.001) and less likely caused by genetics (10% vs 26%; P =.0040).
When asked about treatments for gout, the viewers of the gout vs nongout episode were more likely to indicate that long-term medication would not help (MD, -0.7; 95% CI, -1.2 to -0.2; P =.007) but that changing to a healthier diet would help (MD, 0.6; 95% CI, 0.2-1.1; P =.004).
The study was not designed to evaluate whether depictions of gout on television affected long-term perceptions.
The study authors concluded, “[G]out is commonly depicted on screen as a humorous disease caused by dietary choices which can reinforce misconceptions about the disease and its effective management strategies. Increasing the accuracy of depictions of gout could improve understanding of its treatment, increase representation of the difficulties experienced by patients with gout, and lead to better management of patients with gout in the community.”
Disclosures: One study author declared affiliations with biotech, pharmaceutical, and/or device companies. Please see the original reference for a full list of the author’s disclosures.
Murdoch R, Mihov B, Horne A, et al. The impact of television depictions of gout on perceptions of illness: a randomized controlled trial. Arthritis Care Res. Published online April 11, 2023. doi:10.1002/acr.25130