Is celebrity culture declining your health?

The sudden flood of celebrity health advice and endorsements have been making its impact on our health behaviors, our beliefs, and even our healthcare systems. I have recently watched Timothy Caulfield’s A User’s Guide to Cheating Death, which is a Netflix Docu-series that explores controversial procedures, diets, and therapies that are being sought by the public and endorsed by celebrities to radically alter or improve health behaviors. Dr. Caulfield takes you on a scientific path in understanding the motivation of these health trends, from undergoing elective surgery to have the Kim Kardashian’s butt to completely changing one’s skin color and features.

Of course, there is no cause-and-effect that celebrity culture is declining our health, which has been debunked by Caulfield. In 2016, Timothy Caulfield published “From Kim Kardashian to Dr. Oz: The Future Relevance of Popular Culture to Our Health and Health Policy” where he discussed examples of the ways celebrity culture is having an impact, and where this is heading in the future. I will be primarily using this article if whether celebrity culture is declining our health.

First of all, I want to emphasize that I have nothing against the celebrity culture because, one, I am a fan of some celebrities and, two, I truly do believe that they can provide a positive impact to the public by increasing awareness of social issues. However, when it comes to health advices and lifestyles and if I was a celebrity, I preferably would not give out advices solely because there is a significant socio-financial gap between me and majority of my followers. There is no rational explanation in why celebrities must promote health products, such as supplements, when there is a pretty wide gap in socioeconomic status (SES) between the celebrity and majority of the followers.

Celebrities like Katy Perry and Gwyneth Paltrow, as Caulfield have previously used these two female celebrities the most — in his research and in his Netflix’s docu-series — have a huge cultural footprint. Even, if we do not view them as a credible source of health or lifestyle information but they do project a powerful image that eventually will reach you regardless. In other words, celebrities help each other to establish a certain health behavior, such as the intake of supplements. In fact, Caulfield has discussed in his docu-series on the notion of supplements and vitamins and is it worth it? Overall, if you have dietary restrictions, then supplements come in handy. Otherwise, there is no need because the micronutrients are already in the food.

There are other celebrities, like Doctor Oz who obtained a medical degree have completely turned away from actual science and instead towards pseudoscience. This becomes harmful for the audience because of the misleading information that being provided by a “medical doctor.” Now, I do believe that there can be some good to come out of medical doctors being TV or YouTube personalities, like Doctor Mike. Though he gained media attention because of Buzzfeed praising him for his good looks and then People Magazine named him as “the Sexist Doctor Alive,” he launched his YouTube Channel to make medicine and science understandable and debunks medical television dramas, including the infamous Grey’s Anatomy. So far, Doctor Mike has yet given me a reason to not like him.

As celebrity culture is part of our culture and social media — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube — being what it is currently, as a powerful platform in engaging with celebrities and getting informative news. This means that, for particularly, the younger generations are likely to be exposed to misleading or harmful health information. We must debunk those ridiculous scientific claims before it becomes scienceploitated,as Caulfield have once called it, where media outlooks take evidence-based science and turn it into a marketing scheme — with celebrity endorsements. And this will, inevitably, lead to more celebrity-driven policy challenges.

To reiterate, celebrity culture is not necessary a bad thing as well as social media. They do provide the opportunity that allows the public to receive news updates, which can help the scientific community debunking certain pseudoscience claims that were made, like Jenny McCarthy’s anti-vaccine campaign that vaccinations cause autism.