Reality Television and its Effect on Public Awareness of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Background: Multiple studies have shown the effectiveness of television as an outlet for increasing awareness and interest in health issues. Reality television shows may be particularly effective as health conditions and symptoms, as well as how the symptoms impact daily life, are discussed first-hand; Few studies have investigated the effect of reality shows specifically on public interest in health issues. Diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)—one of the most common endocrine disorders affecting women of reproductive age—has been disclosed and prominently featured on 2 mainstream reality television shows. These shows include My Big Fat Fabulous Life in which Whitney Thore disclosed her PCOS stats in an episode airing in January of 2015, and Teen Mom featuring Maci Bookout and Kailyn Lowry who disclosed their diagnosis in 2018 and 2020 respectively. Thus, our primary objective is to investigate potential increase in public interest regarding PCOS following these disclosures.

Methods: We used Google Trends ( to capture monthly relative search interest (RSI;0-100) in “Polycystic ovary syndrome” from January 2004 through November 2021 to capture a 17-year trend in search interest for the disorder. An autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) modeling technique was used to compare relative search interest for the disorder compared to a forecasted trend had Whitney Thore not spoken out about her diagnosis. We then used an integral function to summate continued interest encompassing the subsequent disclosures.

Results: Observational analysis of the trends showed RSI in “Polycystic ovary syndrome” increased significantly following Whitney Thore’s disclosure and continued to increase as PCOS was featured on multiple shows thereafter. The peak RSI (94) following Thore’s disclosure resulted in a 34.72 (95%CI: 27.82-41.61) higher RSI compared to the forecasted model—a 58.55% increase. From January 2015 through November 2021 multiple peaks occurred which extended beyond the predicted confidence interval, coinciding with additional diagnosis disclosures by the celebrities mentioned, in addition to a performer on “Dancing with the Stars,” resulting in a cumulative RSI increase of 1297 (95%CI: 1292.00- 1302.24)—an average 15.76 points (95%CI: 5.71-25.80) higher interest than forecasted.

Discussion: Our results suggest that disclosure of PCOS diagnosis among celebrities on reality television shows is strongly associated with an increase in public interest. Their disclosure is often accompanied by personal stories and perspectives on how the condition affects their lives, their experience of stigma, and concerns about their health (potential infertility, weight issues, etc). The celebrities also discuss concerns about their children's health and the likelihood of future diagnosis. Thus, their depiction of PCOS may have a positive effect on raising awareness and funding for PCOS research—a valuable insight for health professionals to consider.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 18 Feb 2022
EventOklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences Research Week 2022 : Poster Presentation - Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, Tulsa, United States
Duration: 14 Feb 202218 Feb 2022


ConferenceOklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences Research Week 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
  • Public Awareness
  • Reality Television


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