Women who read all three books in the erotic romance series are at increased risk of engaging in binge drinking and having multiple sex partners, the study led by a Michigan State University researcher found.
All are known risks associated with being in an abusive relationship, much like the lead character, Anastasia, is in Fifty Shades, said Amy Bonomi, the study's lead investigator.
And while the study did not distinguish whether women experienced the health behaviours before or after reading the books, it's a potential problem either way, she said."If women experienced adverse health behaviours such as disordered eating first, reading Fifty Shades might reaffirm those experiences and potentially aggravate related trauma, said Bonomi.
"Likewise, if they read Fifty Shades before experiencing the health behaviours seen in our study, it's possible the books influenced the onset of these behaviours," said Bonomi.
The study, which appears in the Journal of Womens Health, is one of the first to investigate the relationship between health risks and reading popular fiction depicting violence against women.
The researchers studied more than 650 women aged 18-24, a prime period for exploring greater sexual intimacy in relationships, Bonomi said.
Compared to participants who didn't read the book, those who read the first Fifty Shades novel were 25% more likely to have a partner who yelled or swore at them; 34% more likely to have a partner who demonstrated stalking tendencies; and more than 75% more likely to have used diet aids or fasted for more than 24 hours.
Those who read all three books in the series were 65% more likely than non-readers to binge drink and 63% more likely to have five or more sex partners during their lifetime.
Bonomi said she is not suggesting the book be banned or that women should not be free to read whatever books they wish or to have a love life.
However, its important women understand that the health behaviours assessed in the study are known risk factors for being in a violent relationship.
Bonomi said parents and educators should engage kids in constructive conversations about sexuality, body image and gender role expectationsand that these conversations start as early as grade school.