Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (Hons.)


Department of Public Health and Nutrition


The mass media plays a significant role in influencing lay perceptions, opinions and knowledge of health and disease. Given such a role, it is important to identify the theoretical frameworks within which health and disease are portrayed in the mass media. This research project investigated the portrayal of breast cancer in Australian print media in 1994.

The methodology employed was quantitative content analysis. Articles concerning breast cancer and issues relating to breast cancer were analysed and classified as aligned with the biomedical, lifestyle or political economy models of disease. The total number of articles that fell into each category was counted and a descriptive analysis of examples of articles from each model of disease was undertaken.

It was found that the biomedical model strongly dominated the portrayal of breast cancer in the print media. Eighty five percent of articles were classified into the biomedical model. The lifestyle model was an insignificant alternative (8%). The political economy model of disease was least represented, with only two percent of articles falling into this category. Five percent of the articles could not be considered as aligned with any model of disease.

The implications of this portrayal of health and disease in the mass media for public debate and lay understandings and related actions were discussed. Possible explanations for the mass media's representation of the biomedical model, and thus the marginalisation of other models, were given. Suggestions were made for advocates of the political economy model to promote a portrayal of health and disease in the mass media from a broader social and political perspective.