Abstract: Responsibility Framing of Dementia in Media Coverage: Prevention or Treatment?

◆ Dominik Daube, Friedrich Schiller University Jena
◆ Annemarie Wiedicke, University of Erfurt
◆ Doreen Reifegerste, University of Erfurt
◆ Constanze Rossmann, University of Erfurt

Dementia is an international challenge with currently 46.8 million cases worldwide, and with more than 131 million that are predicted to develop dementia by 2050 [1]. Recent medical evidence suggests that various preventable lifestyle factors contribute to the prevalence of dementia. Consequently, the WHO published guidelines, which provide evidence-based recommendations on lifestyle behaviors and interventions to delay or prevent dementia [2]. Since public opinion is also influenced by media coverage, it seems necessary to examine whether these recommendations and these changes of emphasis (from treatment to prevention) are also reflected there.
Framing theory was used as a theoretical background, because it is conceptualized as “to select some aspects of a perceived reality and make them more salient in a communicating text” [3]. In detail, we based our research on responsibility frames [4,5,6], which distinguish between the responsibility for the causes and/or the treatment options and barriers of the disease. Existing studies only differentiate frames on a societal and individual level, although the social network plays a key role in caring and supporting the patients, especially in the context of dementia [7]. Therefore, the role of the social network as another level of influence in the media coverage should also be considered in research.
The aim of this study is to analyze the media coverage on dementia, as it has a great potential to change the opinion and attitudes towards the disease [8]. On the one hand, we examine which causes and treatment options and barriers, including preventive actions mentioned by the WHO, are portrayed in the media at the respective levels (individual, social network, society) (RQ1). On the other hand, we want to investigate which causes and treatment options and barriers are specifically presented. (RQ2).
To answer these questions, a quantitative content analysis of dementia-related articles from the highest-circulation newspapers in Germany in the period from January 1, 2017 up to November 15, 2019 has been conducted. Next to other variables, the responsibility frames were analyzed. The first results indicate that the treatment options including the prevention actions (81.4% of all articles) are mentioned more often in the articles than the causes (49.4%) for dementia. While the causes were framed most times on an individual level (88.3% of causes), the responsibility for the treatment was linked primarily to the society (76.4% of treatments), as well as to the social network of the patient (25.2%) (RQ1). Besides the fixed genetic predisposition (25.0% of causes on individual level) that could not be influenced by any behavior, nutrition (22.1%) was presented as the most important individual causing factor. For the treatment the ‘prevention and education’ (33.0% of treatment on society level) were most frequently mentioned, followed by 'access to/availability of health care' (32.0%) (RQ2).
Our results indicate that media framing of dementia already focuses on prevention on a societal level but should also consider influencing factors on the social level, because the social network plays an important role for dementia patients who can no longer live independently as the disease progresses.