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Representations of obesity in Australian and UK news coverage: A diachronic comparison

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

E-pub ahead of print
Article number100092
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/08/2024
<mark>Journal</mark>Applied Corpus Linguistics
Issue number2
Volume4
Publication StatusE-pub ahead of print
Early online date21/03/24
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

In both Australia and the UK, the number of adults living with obesity has been increasing over the last 30 years (AIHW, 2023; Baker, 2023). Although policy has emphasised ‘community-based interventions’ in Australia (AIHW, 2017) and ‘system-wide approaches’ in the UK (Ulijaszek and McLennan, 2016) for overcoming the challenges of obesity, previous research has shown that media representations have been dominated by representations promoting individual responsibility (e.g., Kim & Willis, 2007). In this paper, we report our observations of representations documented in corpora of media coverage from Australia and the UK between 2008-2017. The corpora amount to 16.4 million tokens and 36 million tokens, respectively. We identify key semantic domains for each year of the corpora and discuss both consistent and shifting themes in the data. Our findings show that the Australian coverage provides a more sustained focus on responses to obesity at the societal level, referring to practices in the food industry and differences between communities that can lead to health disparities. By comparison, while there is an increase in the amount of coverage in the UK press referring to obesity, the content became more narrowly focussed on food consumption and weight loss over the study period. The findings demonstrate how media coverage contributes to public understanding of how to respond to the challenges of obesity.