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A content analysis of chronic fatigue syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis in the news from 1987 to 2013

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By Z.A. Siegel et al.

Abstract

Objectives: The aim of this study was to analyze the content of American newspaper articles ( n=214) from 1987 to 2013, in order to understand how the public digests information related to Chronic Fatigue syndrome, a controversial and misunderstood illness.

Methods: A novel codebook derived from the scientific literature was applied to 214 newspaper articles collected from Lexis Nexis Academic®. These articles were coded quantitatively and frequency tables were created to delineate the variables as they appeared in the articles.

Results: The etiology was portrayed as organic in 64.5% ( n=138) of the articles, and there was no mention of case definitions or diagnostic criteria in 56.1% ( n=120) of the articles. The most common comorbidity was depression, appearing in 22.9% ( n=49) of the articles. In 55.6% ( n=119) of the articles, there was no mention of prevalence rates. In 50.9% ( n=109) of the articles, there was no mention of any form of treatment for the illness. A total of 19.4% ( n=42) of the headlines mislabeled the name of the illness.

Discussion: Based on descriptive statistics of all 214 coded articles, media communicated mixed messages for salient variables such as the name of the illness, its etiology and treatment.

Source: Siegel ZA, Brown A, Devendorf A, Collier J, Leonard J. A content analysis of chronic fatigue syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis in the news from 1987 to 2013. Chronic Illn. 2017 Jan 1:1742395317703175. doi: 10.1177/1742395317703175. [Epub ahead of print]

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