To compare how newspapers cover psychiatric and physical illness. We conducted a survey of relevant headlines in nine daily newspapers over a one-month period and judged whether the content was essentially positive, neutral or negative.
Over the one-month period, 213 article headlines about various aspects of medicine and 47 on psychiatry were identified. Ninety-nine (46%) of the former were critical intone as compared with 30 (64%) of the latter (odds ratio=4.42, 95% CI 1.64–11.94).We gained the impression that negative articles about physical medicine tended to criticise doctors whereas negative articles about psychiatry tended to criticise patients. Tabloid and broadsheet newspapers did not differ in their rates of negative coverage.
Psychiatry, psychiatrists and particularly psychiatric patients tend to be represented negatively in the newspapers. Psychiatrists should strive to influence the news agenda by proactively reporting positive messages, such as treatment advances.
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