Sex Roles

, Volume 62, Issue 11–12, pp 810–821 | Cite as

Sex Roles in Health Storylines on Prime Time Television: A Content Analysis

  • Heather J. HetherEmail author
  • Sheila T. Murphy
Original Article


This study examined the role of character gender in prime time television health portrayals. A content analysis of 1,291 health-related storylines from three spring seasons (2004–2006) of the ten most popular American television programs measured the frequency of male and female characters in prominent roles and how storylines differed with the sex of the ill or injured character. Our analyses revealed a significantly greater number of male characters. Moreover, storylines with a male ill or injured character were more serious in tone, more likely to take place in a medical setting, and had higher educational value. Proportionally, there were some similarities in storylines across the sexes, however, the absolute differences are striking and may have unfortunate effects on viewers.


Content analysis Sex roles Health storylines Television Gender 



The authors thank Grace Huang and Vicki Beck of Hollywood, Health & Society, part of the Norman Lear Center at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California for their contributions to the Television Monitoring Project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Annenberg School for CommunicationUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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