People magazine

Gossip magazines proved more popular than non-gossipy ones for patients in a doctor's waiting room. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty)

Celebrity-filled gossip magazines are more likely to disappear from a waiting room than other magazines, says a New Zealand physician who conducted a small experiment for fun.

Prof. Bruce Arroll of the University of Auckland said he fielded so many complaints about the lack of up-to-date magazines in the waiting room of his general practices that it became a burning research question — one he answers in Thursday’s light-hearted Christmas issue of BMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal.

For the study, researchers stacked 87 magazines into three mixed piles in the waiting room.

The non-gossip magazines included:

  • Time.
  • The Economist.
  • Australian Women’s Weekly.
  • National Geographic.
  • BBC History.

Gossip magazines were defined as those having five or more photographs of celebrities on the cover.

Arroll placed a number on the back cover of each magazine to keep track of what went missing. Of the total magazines, 47 were less than two months old and the rest were three to 12 months old.

"Almost half (47 per cent) of 87 magazines left in a general practice waiting room in Auckland, New Zealand, had disappeared after 31 days, and current magazines were more likely to go missing than older ones," the researchers concluded.

Gossip magazines also disappeared more quickly than non-gossip ones.

"Practices do not put old magazines in their waiting rooms, rather the newer ones disappear," the journal’s editors said.

Magazines disappeared at a rate of 1.32 copies per day. The researchers suggested practices consider using old copies of news magazine to save money.

During the study, it was also noticed that some recipe pages were torn out.

In the competing interests section, Arroll joked he has a subscription to the Economist and he now hopes for a free lifetime subscription.