At the entry level, one in five people followed celebrities for 'entertainment-social' reasons. Anyone burning to know every detail about a favourite star, such as which Madrid mansion Posh Spice and David Beckham will buy, falls into this category. Such fan worship might seem harmless but even these individuals are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and social dysfunction than non-worshippers, say the researchers.
Worshippers who took the next step developed 'intense-personal' attitudes towards an idol. The survey indicated that 10 per cent of people were at this point, where celebrity worship was becoming an addiction.
The 'borderline-pathological' condition was the final, most intense stage of celebrity worship and could be marked by criminal or dangerous behaviour.
Dr Houran said: 'Just worshipping a celebrity does not make you dysfunctional, but it does put you at risk of being so. There is this progression of behaviours, and if you start, we don't know what's going to stop you.'
Houran and McCutcheon suspect that an interest in celebrities may start with a 'search for identity and a sense of fulfillment'.
Worshippers then get so absorbed in the details of the lives of their idols that they start to feel emotional attachment, leading to obsession. The psychologists call this the 'absorption-addiction' model.
I'd ask if the CWS survey produced any strange results in California, but then someone might ask if I really said I'd vote for Legolas.