Critical analysis of Type 2 Diabetes representations in UK news 1993-2013

Author: Kristen Foley

  • Thesis download: available for open access on 4 Apr 2020.

Foley, Kristen, 2017 Critical analysis of Type 2 Diabetes representations in UK news 1993-2013, Flinders University, School of Health Sciences

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Background: T2DM is increasingly represented in the media as brought on by ‘lifestyle’. There is increasing media attention that we are now in an ‘epidemic’ of T2DM driven by the ‘epidemic’ of obesity. In Australia and Canada the fat body has come to signify the disease. This is at odds with the complex and still uncertain knowledge of what causes T2DM. To date there has been limited critical attention to the evolution of these discourses into the ‘diabetes epidemic’ despite their potential iatrogenic consequences.

Method: This study paired framing analysis and thematic analysis to develop rich and diverse descriptions of how T2DM the issue and T2DM the epidemic were constructed and increasingly naturalised in the UK between 1993 and 2013. This time period was selected to explore if and how the emergence of the ‘obesity epidemic’ late 1990’s influenced T2DM presentations.

Results: The lifestyle component of T2DM discourse became more prominent over time while other risk factors like age, family history, and genetics faded. By 2001 obesity, overweight, and to a lesser extent sedentarism and poor nutrition, were described as causal to T2DM. These slippages in the disease aetiology enabled people and everyday practices to be imbued with new socio-cultural and moral meanings. New opportunities were opened up to stigmatise those who developed T2DM or were now deemed to be ‘at-risk’. Heightened concern about the costliness of T2DM amplified the responsibilisation and distancing of already marginalised groups, which was described as an ‘epidemic’ by 2013.

Conclusions: This study was methodologically interesting. Using both thematic analysis and framing analysis afforded insight into how overall presentations of T2DM were scaffolded through coinciding medical, behavioural and societal framings as well as slippages in aetiological descriptions. This study has also been the first to critique the ‘diabetes epidemic’. The absorption of lifestyle and obesity related discourses into T2DM presentations suggests the problem of obesity has extended the possibilities for responsibilising and stigmatising vulnerable groups through the generative ‘lifestyle’ concept. Public health must more critically and creatively respond to the pervasive and adaptive nature of these hegemonic discourses.

Keywords: diabetes, obesity, epidemic, frame analysis, framing, critique, ethics, discourse, public health

Subject: Public Health thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2017
School: School of Health Sciences
Supervisor: Dr Darlene McNaughton