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Title: Monitoring the 'diabetes epidemic': A framing analysis of United Kingdom print news 1993-2013
Contributor(s): Foley, Kristen (author); McNaughton, Darlene  (author)orcid ; Ward, Paul (author)
Publication Date: 2020
Open Access: Yes
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0225794
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The view that we are in the midst of a global diabetes epidemic has gained considerable ground in recent years and is often linked to the prior 'obesity epidemic'. This research explored how the diabetes epidemic was represented in United Kingdom (UK) news over the same time period that the obesity epidemic was widely reported. The research was motivated by a sociological interest in how postmodern 'epidemics' synergise with each other amidst broader political, economic, moral and sociocultural discourses.


We analysed three time-bound samples of UK news articles about diabetes: 1993 (n = 19), 2001 (n = 119) and 2013 (n = 324). Until now, UK media has had the least attention regarding portrayal of diabetes. We adopted an empathically neutral approach and used a dual method approach of inductive thematic analysis and deductive framing analysis. The two methods were triangulated to produce the findings.


Framing of diabetes moved from medical in 1993 to behavioural in 2001, then societal in 2013. By 2001 obesity was conceptualised as causal to diabetes, rather than a risk factor. Between 2001 and 2013 portrayals of the modifiable risk factors for diabetes (i.e. diet, exercise and weight) became increasingly technical. Other risk factors like age, family history and genetics faded during 2001 and 2013, while race, ethnicity and culture were positioned as states of 'high risk' for diabetes. The notion of an 'epidemic' of diabetes 'powered up' these concerns from an individual problem to a societal threat in the context of obesity as a well-known health risk.

Discussion and conclusion

Portraying diabetes and the diabetes epidemic as anticipated consequences of obesity enlivens the heightened awareness to future risks in everyday life brought about during the obesity epidemic. The freeform adoption of the 'epidemic' term in contemporary health discourse appears to foster individual and societal dependence on biomedicine, giving it political, economic and divisive utility.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: PLoS ONE, 15(1), p. 1-27
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Place of Publication: United States of America
ISSN: 1932-6203
Fields of Research (FoR) 2020: 4501 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, language and history
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2020: tbd
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
Appears in Collections:Journal Article
School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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