A matter of looks: The framing of obesity in four Swedish daily newspapers


This article reports on a study done in Sweden on how the daily press covers the theme of overweight/obesity. It deals with two questions: (1) How is overweight framed in the media? and (2) Which consequences can these framings have on public perceptions of overweight/obesity? The study is limited to media content in Swedish daily newspapers, 1997–2001. In all 1 925 articles from four different papers have been analysed. The study points out that overweight/obesity is most frequently presented as a health problem, however the dominating frame in the news papers is overweight presented as a beauty dilemma. The two ways of constructing overweight comes along with different kind of information that leaves the potential reader with diverse impressions and solutions. The first frame appeals to reason and rationality, the latter mobilizes emotions and affect. When the reporters reduce the health problem to a matter of looks they underestimate the seriousness of this social problem, which might have undesirable effects on public perception of overweight. There are considerable gender dimensions in the coverage and overweight is mostly presented as a female problem. In the articles obese people are often stigmatized and gender stereotypes are frequently reproduced. There is on top of that and abundance of paradoxes in the material, which also makes it hard for the reader to orient herself in the crossfire of messages and gives little advice upon how to solve the problem of overweight.

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The European Journal of Communication Research is an established forum for scholarship and academic debate in the field of communication science and research from a European perspective. Communications highlights the concerns of communication science through the publication of articles, research reports, review essays and book reviews on theoretical and methodological developments considered from a European perspective.