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Loneliness among older people in the Swedish media: Constructions, discourses and the designation of responsibility
Linköping University, Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Division Ageing and Social Change. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2891-646X
2018 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Feelings of belonging or not belonging to other people are commonly seen as an essential and universal part of human existence. How loneliness is talked about and understood is, however, found to differ depending on historical, cultural and societal contexts. Today, there are intense discussions on loneliness among older people in the Swedish news-press. Constructions within mass media and - in this licentiate thesis - news-press are found to have a significant influence on how older people evaluate their own life and how older people are treated by the surrounding society. Research with this focus is, however, scarce despite the large amount of studies on loneliness and despite research on constructions of older people within mass media being a frequently addressed issue for ageing research. The aim of this thesis is to explore how loneliness among older people is constructed and how the responsibility for reducing loneliness is designated within the Swedish news-press.

In Paper 1 the empirical material consisted of 94 news-press articles from the years 2013-2014. The prime finding was that loneliness was not the main focus in the articles from the Swedish news-press. The concept was used more to motivate the need for political change, enhancing the importance of volunteer work and described as a risk factor within research reports. The material analysed in Paper 2 consisted of 40 news-press articles from October 2016. The responsibility for reducing loneliness among older people was found to be designated between welfare state institutions on different levels. Institutions and political parties both defend the planned or performed measures to reduce loneliness, but also admit to not doing enough in this regard. Older people were found to be constructed as recipients of activities for reducing loneliness, and the “we” in “society” were those who should perform activities in order to reduce loneliness among older people.

The main overall finding of the thesis is that loneliness was not the main focus in the articles from Swedish news-press. Instead, loneliness was used as a motive for political change and to enhance the value of volunteer work. Furthermore, loneliness among older people is understood as a problem that needs to be solved. The contexts and logics of the mass media were found to have an influence on how loneliness among older people was constructed, as the issue was mainly addressed in local debate articles with ambitions of achieving change.

Abstract [sv]

Känslor av tillhörighet med andra människor betraktas som en viktig och universell del av människans existens. Ensamhet är särskilt relaterat till åldrande och äldre människor. Hur ensamhet pratas om och förstås varierar dock beroende på historiska, kulturella och samhälleliga kontexter. Idag är diskussionerna om ensamhet bland äldre människor intensiva inom svensk dagspress. Konstruktioner inom massmedia har visat sig ha ett betydande inflytande på hur äldre människor värderar sitt eget liv och hur äldre behandlas av det omgivande samhället. Få studier har fokuserat på konstruktioner av äldres ensamhet i massmedia, trots det stora antalet studier om ensamhet och trots att forskning om konstruktioner av äldre inom massmedia är en ofta behandlad fråga inom äldreforskningen. Syftet med denna licentiatavhandling är att undersöka hur ensamhet bland äldre konstrueras och hur ansvaret för att minska ensamhet bland äldre utpekas inom svensk dagsspressen.

I Studie 1 bestod det empiriska materialet av 94 artiklar från svensk dagspress, från åren 2013-2014. Det främsta resultatet var att ensamhet inte utgjorde huvudfokus i artiklarna från svensk dagspress. Ensamhet användes främst som ett begrepp för att motivera behovet av politisk förändring, betona värdet av volontärarbete och för att i forskningsrapporter beskriva riskfaktorer för äldre personers hälsa.

Materialet som analyserades i Studie 2 var 40 artiklar från svensk dagspress, från oktober 2016. Ansvaret för att minska ensamhet bland äldre utpekades mellan välfärdsstatliga institutioner på olika nivåer. Institutioner och politiska partier försvarade de planerade eller genomförda åtgärderna för att minska ensamhet, men erkände också att de inte gör tillräckligt i frågan. Äldre personer konstruerades som mottagare av aktiviteter för att minska ensamhet, och "vi" i "samhället" var de som borde utföra aktiviteter för att minska ensamhet bland äldre. De främsta resultaten från denna avhandling är att ensamhet inte är huvudfokus i artiklarna från svensk dagspress. Istället användes ensamhet som motiv för politisk förändring och för att betona värdet av volontärarbete. Vidare förstås ensamhet bland äldre människor som ett problem som behöver lösas. Massmediala sammanhang och logiker visade sig ha ett inflytande på hur ensamhet bland äldre konstrueras, eftersom frågan huvudsakligen behandlades i lokala debattartiklar, med ambitioner om att åstadkomma förändring.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2018. , p. 71
Series
Rapporter från Åldrande och social förändring ; 1
Keywords [en]
loneliness, older people, news-press, social constructionism, responsibility
Keywords [sv]
ensamhet, äldre människor, dagspress, social konstruktionism, ansvar
National Category
Other Health Sciences Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-153333DOI: 10.3384/lic.diva-153333ISBN: 9789176851517 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-153333DiVA, id: diva2:1270421
Presentation
2018-02-15, K2, Kåkenhus, Campus Norrköping, Norrköping, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2018-12-13 Created: 2018-12-13 Last updated: 2018-12-14Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. What are we talking about?: Constructions of loneliness among older people in the Swedish news-press
Open this publication in new window or tab >>What are we talking about?: Constructions of loneliness among older people in the Swedish news-press
2017 (English)In: Journal of Aging Studies, ISSN 0890-4065, E-ISSN 1879-193X, Vol. 41, p. 18-27Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Loneliness among older people is an issue that engages the general public and various professions and organizations in contemporary Swedish society. One public arena where this engagement is particularly evident is within the Swedish news-press, where articles on loneliness among older people are frequently published. Loneliness is commonly perceived as significantly related to ageing and older people. In addition, the mass media is considered to have a crucial influence in shaping general perceptions of older people. The aim of this study is to examine how loneliness among older people is constructed in the Swedish news-press and whether there is a prevailing “loneliness discourse” within this context. The empirical material consists of 94 articles from the Swedish news-press from the years 2013–2014. Two dominating discourses was found. Loneliness — within the discourse of eldercare, politics and the welfare society, is primarily written about in news articles and debate articles by a variety of authors, such as politicians and representatives from organizations. Within this discourse, loneliness is utilized as a concept to motivate the need for political change and the allocations of resources and to amplify deficiencies within eldercare, politics and the welfare society. The second discourse, Loneliness — within the discourse of volunteer work, is addressed in reportage articles written by journalists. In this discourse focus was on depicting volunteers and enhancing the importance of volunteer work. Here, loneliness serves as a motive for performing volunteer work. In addition, the discourse of Research reports on older people's health was found, although less significant compared to the two major discourses. Within this discourse ageing is presented as a risk, where loneliness is one of these risk factors. Despite some minor differences, loneliness, within all three discourses, is given the meaning of being a problem that needs to be solved. A central finding in this study is that focus in the articles, from Swedish news-press, is not mainly on loneliness but rather on eldercare, politics and the welfare state, volunteer work and health among older people. Loneliness is, consequently, used as a concept to motivate the need for political change and the allocation of resources for older people, to enhance the values of volunteer work and to emphasize the risks associated with ageing.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2017
Keywords
Loneliness, Older people, Mass media, Discourse theory
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-136131 (URN)10.1016/j.jaging.2017.03.002 (DOI)000404490400003 ()28610751 (PubMedID)
Note

Fundingagencies: Norrkepingsfonden [KS 2013/0721]

Available from: 2017-03-28 Created: 2017-03-28 Last updated: 2018-12-13Bibliographically approved
2. Reducing loneliness among older people – who is responsible?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Reducing loneliness among older people – who is responsible?
2018 (English)In: Ageing & Society, ISSN 0144-686X, E-ISSN 1469-1779Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

In the Swedish news-press, loneliness among older people is presented as a severe problem that needs to be solved. The issue of who is responsible for reducing loneliness and how this responsibility is designated is, however, rarely discussed. In this study, we have analysed how responsibility is designated and constructed in articles from the Swedish news-press. Focus has been on identifying responsibility in discourses proceeding from the concept of subject positions. This concept has enabled analysis on how responsibility is negotiated and who is positioned as a responsible actor with the ability to perform actions that reduce loneliness. Three dominating discourses were found. In the discourse of responsibility within politics and the welfare state, the responsibility is both self-taken and designated to other institutions held responsible for not initiating sufficient measures to reduce loneliness. In the discourse of responsibility within societal and evolutionary perspectives on loneliness, developments beyond the individual's control are considered to contribute to loneliness. At the same time ‘we’ in ‘society’ are considered capable of reducing loneliness, thereby constructing individuals as responsible actors. Within the discourses of responsibility within senior organisations, both senior organisations and people who participate in activities are constructed as responsible actors. In conclusion, the responsibility for reducing loneliness is, apart from the discourse on senior organisations, designated to those working with older people.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018
Keywords
loneliness, responsibility, news-press, subject positions, discourses
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-153334 (URN)10.1017/S0144686X18001162 (DOI)2-s2.0-85055109228 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2018-12-13 Created: 2018-12-13 Last updated: 2019-03-22Bibliographically approved

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