Document Type

Thesis

Date of Degree

Spring 2015

Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)

Degree In

Journalism

First Advisor

Venise Berry

Abstract

Menopause is a biological change that affects the aging woman at some point in her life. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been a primary medical intervention for decades, and this study explores how HRT products are marketed to women experiencing menopause through direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug ads. Through a qualitative analysis of DTC ads and interviews with women experiencing menopause symptoms, this research investigated their perspective on HRT drug ads to understand if women respond to this type of advertising. Women’s understanding and experiences concerning menopause are influenced by a number of factors and can vary depending on the meanings that are associated with menopause. In U.S. culture, physical appearance is emphasized above other characteristics, so menopause and other signs of aging chge the beauty ideal. Media portrayals of women too often value youth and ideal beauty, with direct-to-consumer (DTC) ads reinforcing this notion by emphasizing how women can remain young, fight the signs of aging, and maintain their vitality by using HRT products. Women also feel conflicted about their bodies as they age because of these dominant standards that can then lead to negative body image.

Social comparisons are an inherent process guiding behavior and experiences that affect how people understand themselves (Corcoran, Crusius, & Mussweiler, 2011). People look at others and to media images of others, relating that information to themselves as a way to measure what they are and aren’t capable of. When advertisements construct menopause as a deficiency that women need to treat with medications, women compare themselves to mediated images as they try to understand their menopause experience.

Ads analyzed for this study presented messages that women need medication to maintain healthy activities during and after menopause. Most of the ads focused on painful sex that can happen with menopause but nearly all of the participants agreed that these ads did not relate to their experiences. This research found that women don’t believe menopause is a disease to be treated but if medications are used, it should be for the shortest time possible and only if the symptoms drastically interfere with a woman’s quality of life. Through these interviews with menopausal women and analysis of HRT ads, this study adds to limited current research on DTC ads for hormone replacement therapies and menopause.

Public Abstract

This study examined how hormone replacement therapies (HRT) for menopause are marketed to women. An analysis of HRT ads and interviews with women about these ads provided information for the study. Many women don’t know what to expect during this life change and information about menopause can be confusing because that information is not always accurate; one size does not fit all. HRT drug ads describe some symptoms associated with menopause but they focus on selling medications to treat just one or two symptoms. What people see in the media can be a major influence in what information they believe is accurate therefore it’s important to investigate what women think about HRT ads and how they affect women.

Analysis of the ads shows prevalent messages that women need medication to maintain healthy activity during and after menopause but findings suggest many women don’t feel they need medication to treat symptoms. Most of these women also said the ads did not relate to their specific experience. Generally they believe menopause is a positive experience but the ads portray it as a difficult time that requires medication. However, some indicated they might use information from ads to talk with their doctor or to learn more about their symptoms, so this study expands on what women learn from HRT ads. The results of this study indicate that many women feel there is insufficient research on menopause so more work needs to be done in this area.

Keywords

publicabstract, DTC ads, menopause, social comparison theory, women

Pages

ix, 63 pages

Bibliography

Includes bibliographical references (pages 59-63).

Comments

This thesis has been optimized for improved web viewing. If you require the original version, contact the University Archives at the University of Iowa: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/sc/contact/.

Copyright

Copyright 2015 Tammy Walkner

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