, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 30-33
Date: 25 May 2007

Stigmatization of Repetitive Hand Use in Newspaper Reports of Hand Illness

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Abstract

Failure to provide a balanced evidence-based consideration of the role of activity in illness can stigmatize individuals and their activities. We assessed the prevalence of language that stigmatized repetitive hand use and those that use their hand repetitively in newspaper coverage of common hand illnesses. The LexisNexis Academic database was used to search five major US newspapers for articles containing keywords about common hand illnesses during a 3-year period. Article language was assessed for stigmatization of activities involving repetitive hand use as well as for stigmatization of patients who use their hand repetitively. One hundred and twenty-four articles on hand illnesses were identified. Of these, 65.3% of articles stigmatized activities involving repetitive hand use, including 96.6% of articles discussing overuse injury of the hand, 90% of articles discussing tendonitis or tenosynovitis, and 51.8% of articles discussing carpal tunnel syndrome. Patient stigmatization was documented in 30.6% of the newspaper articles. Stigmatizing statements were most commonly made by journalists (94.8%), followed by patients (3.1%), and physicians (2.1%). Language that stigmatizes repetitive hand use and patients who use their hand repetitively is prevalent among US newspaper articles. Both health professionals and journalists reporting health-related news should be more sensitive to the use of stigmatizing language and provide a more balanced, measured, and evidenced-based account of hand illnesses.