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‘Lose weight, save the NHS’: Discourses of obesity in press coverage of COVID-19

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

E-pub ahead of print
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>26/05/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Critical Discourse Studies
Publication StatusE-pub ahead of print
Early online date26/05/21
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

This article examines the discourses that are used by the British press to represent obesity in its coverage of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Obesity is understood to be a risk factor for COVID-19, with people with obesity being more likely to die from the virus. This study adopts a corpus-based approach to Critical Discourse Studies and utilises a novel approach to keyword analysis, based on comparing analysis corpora against two reference corpora in order to yield keywords that are, in this case, characteristic compared to general coverage of both COVID-19 and obesity. It is argued that the context of the pandemic has produced a range of discourses around obesity that are more stigmatising than usual in both the tabloids and the broadsheets, with people with obesity being construed, for example, in especially fatalistic terms and as being responsible for the problems facing the country’s healthcare system. At the same time, the pandemic context also seems to have given rise to some more positive changes to press coverage of obesity, with race-related health disparities receiving more focus than usual and the right-leaning press being more likely to critique the Conservative Government than it usually is, resulting in an arguably more balanced style of reporting.