Study: Women’s health coverage focuses on control

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Amanda Hinnant, an assistant professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, analyzed 148 health articles in nine top-selling women’s magazines from a feminist perspective. The resulting article “The Cancer on Your Coffee Table: A Discourse Analysis of the Health Content in Mass-circulated Women’s Magazines,” is summarized here for those without the necessary journal access. Hinnant found that most coverage hewed to what could be called a post-feminist view and focused on the control the individual has over their own health with less regard for outside factors.

From the journalism.missouri.edu summary:

Most articles framed seeking better health as a way of taking control of your life, yet Hinnant suggested this was an illusion of control. “Mood, stress and energy are frequently substituted as symbols for health. Maintaining good health means constantly patrolling the borders for a bad mood, high stress and low energy,” she wrote. “What materializes is the notion that the pursuit of wellness will result in a life in control, when in fact it is a life that is controlled by the tyranny of constant surveillance.”

There were a few political and socially oriented stories (particularly in Glamour), but Hinnant found weight loss to be the most popular topic. Typically, readers were encouraged to lose weight not for aesthetic reasons, but to improve wellness, improve heart health and prevent cancer.

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