University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Social Psychology Seminar Series (SPSS) > Control versus chaos: differences in advertisements for non-psychiatric and psychiatric medication in professional journals

Control versus chaos: differences in advertisements for non-psychiatric and psychiatric medication in professional journals

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This paper will discuss the results of an exploratory mixed methods study that examined differences and similarities between advertisements for psychiatric and non-psychiatric medication in two professional journals. A quantitative and qualitative analysis of text and images in all advertisements for medication in the British Medical Journal and the British Journal of Psychiatry between October 2005 and September 2006 was undertaken. These journals were chosen for their high circulation rates and specialisms. Statistical analysis was carried out as appropriate, and qualitative analysis was thematic.

Advertisements for psychiatric medication contain significantly less text than advertisements for non-psychiatric medication, and are less likely to include clinical or research information about the drug itself, relying instead on narratives. The images used in advertisements for psychiatric medication are more negative than those used for non-psychiatric medication, and focus on deviant, out-of-control behaviour before treatment. In comparison, non-psychiatric medication advertisements tend to use images of people after successful treatment engaged in everyday activities and in control.

Although this was a relatively small sample, the strength and significance of the differences in the ways in which psychiatric and non-psychiatric medication are advertised is troubling, and suggests that stigmatising images of mental health problems are still in evidence in areas of health care. This is more worrying in light of mental health policy, anti-stigma campaigns and also discussion surrounding Direct-to-Consumer Advertising. These implications will be discussed in more depth.

This talk is part of the Social Psychology Seminar Series (SPSS) series.

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