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Psychol Med. 2012 Feb;42(2):435-41. doi: 10.1017/S0033291711001012. Epub 2011 Jun 16.

The reporting of mental disorders research in British media.

Author information

  • 1University College London, London, UK.
  • 2Evaluametrics Ltd, St Albans, UK.
  • 3Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK.



While the media may significantly influence public attitudes and government policies affecting the research agenda, how mental health research is reported in the media has been virtually unstudied. The aim of this study was to examine stories concerning mental health research published on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) website between 1999 and 2008 and in New Scientist between 2008 and 2010.


Stories were retrieved from on-line archives. Story content was coded and assessed against: 'disease burden' of mental disorders; the general corpus of research papers in mental health and the countries from which they originated; the journals in which cited papers were published; and funding sources.


A total of 1015 BBC stories reporting mental health research and 133 New Scientist stories were found. The distribution of stories did not reflect 'disease burden'; research on dementia was over-represented, while depression and alcohol were under-represented. There was an emphasis on biological research while stories on psychological interventions were rare. UK research was over-represented. Research funded by government and private non-profit sources was over-represented. Commentators from Alzheimer's Disease charities were prominent.


Consideration of reported stories may suggest approaches to working with the media to improve the public understanding of, and support for, mental health research. The role of commentators may be especially important.

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