Escalating coverage of obesity in UK newspapers: the evolution and framing of the "obesity epidemic" from 1996 to 2010

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2012 Aug;20(8):1688-95. doi: 10.1038/oby.2012.27. Epub 2012 Feb 9.


Obesity is one of the fastest growing and most serious public health challenges facing the world in the 21st century. Correspondingly, over the past decade there has been increased interest in how the obesity epidemic has been framed by the media. This study offers the first large-scale examination of the evolution and framing of the obesity epidemic in UK newspapers, identifying shifts in news coverage about the causal drivers of and potential solutions to the obesity epidemic. Seven UK newspapers were selected and 2,414 articles published between 1 January 1996 and 31 December 2010 were retrieved from electronic databases using keyword searches. The thematic content of articles was examined using manifest content analysis. Over the 15-year period there was an increase in media reporting on obesity and in particular on childhood obesity. There was evidence of a trend away from a focus on individuals towards a greater level of reporting on societal solutions such as regulatory change, with the greatest shift in reporting occurring in mid-market and serious newspapers. Given that the media have a huge influence in shaping public opinion, this shift in reporting might be an early indicator to policymakers of a growing public discourse around a need for regulatory change to tackle the obesogenic environment.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Bibliometrics*
  • Child
  • Epidemics*
  • Health Policy / legislation & jurisprudence
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Mass Media / trends*
  • Newspapers as Topic / trends*
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • United Kingdom