Representations of obesity in national newspapers: A comparative study between China and Australia
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
School of Arts and Humanities
Nearly two-thirds of Australians and up to half of all Chinese are overweight. Global obesity figures have tripled since 1975 (WHO, 2018b), which demonstrates that obesity is a major global health problem. It is critical to examine how print media represent obesity because they influence public understanding of the problem. It is also essential to determine ways to improve health journalism and health outcomes. While there is a significant body of literature that has examined representations of obesity in the Australian press through mixed approaches, there is a deficit of media research into how China’s press has represented this issue. This study investigated how obesity was represented in two national newspapers—China Daily and The Australian—between 2013 and 2018. Content analysis was performed to reveal the types and frequency of obesity-related news items regarding causes, determinants, impacts, solutions and sources. Additionally, discourse analysis was undertaken to qualitatively reveal the framing of obesity based on findings from the content analysis. China Daily was selected because it is China’s largest-selling national daily English-language newspaper, while The Australian is Australia’s largest daily national newspaper. More than 1000 news items on obesity published in the two newspapers between 2013 and 2018 were retrieved through Factiva. Content analysis uncovered that obesity was under-presented in both newspapers. Individual causes and solutions were the most prominent news items in both newspapers, whereas genetic and biological determinants were less likely to be presented. For childhood obesity, parental determinants appeared more often than social determinants. Findings from the discourse analysis found three prominent frames—legitimation, responsibility and stereotype—in which individual responsibility was highlighted, while social responsibility was backgrounded. Individual responsibility and blaming were the dominant discourses in both newspapers. Further, stereotypes, weight stigma and the thin ideal discourse were mentioned in the news items. Framing analysis revealed that news items on obesity tended to shift health costs onto individuals rather than highlight the responsibility of the food and drink industries. The presence of stereotype frames was greater in China Daily than The Australian.
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Wang, Y. (2020). Representations of obesity in national newspapers: A comparative study between China and Australia. https://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/2367