Coverage of alcoholism and the consequences of alcohol use in lay magazines: A content analysis
Thirty six magazines from end of year 2005 to beginning of year 2006 were reviewed for their content on alcohol. Content analysis was conducted to determine how the subject was treated in chosen lay magazines. The publications, the top selling magazine targeting women, the top selling magazine targeting men and the top selling magazine targeting the general population, were Cosmopolitan, Playboy, and Reader's Digest. Alcohol is a popular subject from a social perspective demonstrated by the fact that all 36 magazines touched on the subject. More than 20% of articles in the sample made reference to alcohol.
Three hundred and sixty-one out of 1540 articles were coded and analyzed to determine credibility of sources and depth of coverage for the subject of alcohol. Analysis of the data showed few credentials mentioned for sources and in many cases, there were no sources listed at all. Depth was equally lacking as most references included the phrases 'alcohol use' or 'alcohol misuse/overuse/abuse'. Consequences of alcohol use and behaviors related to alcohol use were next most prevalent, but discussed much less often than the leading categories. Little attention was give for areas such as dependency/addiction, alcoholism, diseases or medical conditions related to alcohol use, causes of alcohol misuse/abuse/addiction, injuries related to alcohol use and making healthy behavior change regarding alcohol use. The study revealed a representation of alcohol as being merely a fun and light hearted activity. Only a few articles mentioned the negative consequences of alcohol consumption such as injury, death, DWI's or health related conditions.
People who read lay publications like the ones in this study are being given inaccurate or incomplete information regarding alcohol consumption. A wide discrepancy between the reality and facts of using alcohol exists. The results of this study should encourage health educators to monitor lay publications and become involved in the actual content of information being disseminated to the public. Health educators can accomplish this by developing rapport and working with the editors of lay publications.