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Hyping the market for ‘anti-ageing’ in the news: From medical failure to success in self-transformation

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Abstract

Over the last two decades, a vast and diverse market of commodities labelled ‘anti-ageing treatments’ has evolved. However, the establishment of this market has been far from smooth and uncontested. This article examines the news media as a crucial site for contestation over the meaning and legitimacy of ‘anti-ageing treatments’ during the period of the market’s maturation. Using ideas from media theory and health sociology, and drawing on the findings from a content analysis of news articles published between 1995 and 2013, we identify critical phases in the public portrayals of ‘anti-ageing treatments’ over this formative period: firstly, contestation regarding the scientific legitimacy for the concept of anti-ageing; secondly, the normalisation of demand for products and services so labelled, and thirdly and most recently the growing visibility of and accessibility to a multifarious range of technologies oriented to bodily and self-transformation. As we argue, the news media has played a crucial role in establishing legitimacy for the ‘anti-ageing treatment’ market, through authorising and rendering commonplace products that derive their value largely from what their portrayals promise rather than from what they deliver. However, while a thriving and variegated ‘anti-ageing treatment’ market has been successfully established, as we conclude, this ‘success’ is tenuous in that the market is vulnerable to its own hype that has the potential to undermine its longer-term viability.

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Notes

  1. We use the standard English spelling ‘anti-ageing’, unless the US spelling (‘anti-aging’) appears in quoted material.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Australian Research Council [grant number DP140100484]. All work contained within this manuscript is original and our own, unless otherwise acknowledged, and is not under publication or review elsewhere. The authors have no financial or other conflict of interest. This research contains no human research.

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MacGregor, C., Petersen, A. & Parker, C. Hyping the market for ‘anti-ageing’ in the news: From medical failure to success in self-transformation. BioSocieties 13, 64–80 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41292-017-0052-5

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