According to a paper in the Christmas 1997 issue of the British Medical Journal, characters in soap operas have a considerably higher mortality rate than almost any other professional group. Not only that, but they were three times more likely to have a violent death than the average person. 'Death Rates of Characters in Soap Operas on British Television: is a Government Health Warning Required?' by Tim Crayford, Richard Hooper and Sarah Evans was, in the words of its authors, 'a hard-hitting analysis of mortality in British television soap operas'.
Their findings are startling. A character aged under 30 in Coronation Street, for example, has a 10 per cent chance of dying within five years of being introduced into the series.
The figure for the general population is 0.3 per cent. Indeed, being a character in Coronation Street is more hazardous than being an oil-rig diver or bomb-disposal expert.
Only Formula One drivers had a greater chance of dying, and even they were better off than EastEnders characters. 'Characters in these serials,' the writers conclude, 'would be advised to wear good protective clothing' and to receive regular counselling for the psychological impact of living in an environment akin to a war zone.'