While many enjoy Zombie and horror movies, thinking of them as nothing but a guilty pleasure, they may not realise that immersing themselves in such fiction actually prepared them for the reality of 2020, a fascinating research has revealed.

Tales of post-apocalyptic landscapes in which few survivors emerge into a new and much different world have long been popular tales woven by screenwriters and authors.

According to a team of researchers from the Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) in the US, enjoying horror films could have better prepared people for the Covid-19 pandemic as opposed to others who do not enjoy frightening entertainment.

"After factoring out personality influences, which were actually quite strong, we found that the more movies about zombies, alien invasions and apocalyptic pandemics people had seen prior to Covid-19, the better they dealt with the actual, current pandemic," said John Johnson, professor emeritus of psychology at Penn State.

"These kinds of movies apparently serve as mental rehearsal for actual events," Johnson said in a paper appeared in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, adding that "stories are not just entertainment, but preparation for life".

To reach this conclusion, the researchers designed a survey they pilot-tested.

They administered the final survey to 310 persons via a website.

Participants then indicated the extent to which they were fans of horror, zombie, psychological thriller, supernatural, apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic, science fiction, alien-invasion, crime, comedy, and romance genres in movies and television.

Next, participants were asked about the past and present experience with and interest in films that were explicitly about pandemics.

"What we found was that people who watched certain kinds of movies before the pandemic seemed to be helped by them during the pandemic," Johnson said.

"I'm not sure that watching such movies now would be helpful for our current situation," he said. "However, my understanding of pandemics and other life-challenging events is that similar future challenges are absolutely inevitable.