Media coverage on mental health problems has been found to vary by newspaper type, and stigma disproportionately affects people with mental illness by diagnosis.
This study investigated the relationships between types of UK national newspaper (tabloid vs. broadsheet), illness classification (SMI–severe mental illnesses vs. CMD–common mental disorders), and stigmatising coverage of mental disorders, and whether these relationships changed over the course of the Time to Change anti-stigma programmes in England and Wales.
Secondary analysis of data from a study of UK newspaper coverage of mental illness was performed. Relevant articles from nine UK national newspapers in 2008–11, 2013, 2016 and 2019 were retrieved. A structured coding framework was used for content analysis. The odds an article was stigmatising in a tabloid compared to a broadsheet, and about SMI compared to CMD, were calculated. Coverage of CMD and SMI by newspaper type
was compared using the content elements categorised as stigmatising or anti-stigmatising.
2719 articles were included for analysis. Articles in tabloids had 1.32 times higher odds of being stigmatising than articles in broadsheet newspapers (OR 1.32, 95% CI 1.12–1.55). Odds of stigmatising coverage was 1.72 times higher for articles on SMI than CMD (OR 1.72, 95% CI 1.39–2.13). Different patterns in reporting were observed when results were stratified by years for all analyses. A few significant associations were observed for the portrays of stigmatising elements between tabloid and broadsheet newspapers regarding SMI or CMD.
Tailored interventions are needed for editors and journalists of different newspaper types, to include specific strategies for different diagnoses.