Tony Cassidy, of Nene College, Northampton, was due to tell the British Psychological Society today that, while having an idol in your teens is probably all right, those who continue to revere the same idol into maturity are more likely to be psychologically disturbed, have a tendency to eating disorders, and may have difficulty forming relationships - in other words, they present the classic picture of a maladjusted loner.
"Simply having an idol had no overall effect, but the data does support the argument that the degree of involvement with idols and the longevity of the relationship may be harmful in terms of adjustment and health," said Tony Cassidy. He was prompted to research this area because he was dissatisfied with the received wisdom that idolatry is a normal stage of development. "It is clear that for many this phase becomes extreme, as was recently demonstrated by a number of attempted suicides after the pop group Take That split up."
Mr Cassidy interviewed 163 adults, collecting data on their relationships, body image, dietary habits and attitude to problems.
The more enamoured of an idol the participants were, the less likely they were to take an imaginative approach to solving problems in their lives. Female obsessives were much more likely to be preoccupied with their weight and to have a negative view of their appearance. Weight problems were particularly apparent in those who had not grown out of their idolatrous phase.