Australian Journal of Primary Health Australian Journal of Primary Health Society
The issues influencing community health services and primary health care
RESEARCH ARTICLE

‘Perfect skin’, the media and patients with skin disease: a qualitative study of patients with acne, psoriasis and atopic eczema

Parker Magin A D , Jon Adams B , Gaynor Heading C and Dimity Pond A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Discipline of General Practice, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2008, Australia.

B Discipline of Social Science, School of Population Health, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia.

C Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: parker.magin@newcastle.edu.au

Australian Journal of Primary Health 17(2) 181-185 https://doi.org/10.1071/PY10047
Submitted: 16 August 2010  Accepted: 10 December 2010   Published: 7 June 2011

Abstract

The relationship of skin disease with societal ideals of beauty, and the role of the media in this relationship, has not previously been researched. The overall objective of this study was to explore the psychological effects of skin disease. The theme of the ideal of perfect skin and the role of the media in generating this ideal arose via an inductive study methodology and was explored in the context of respondents’ psychological morbidity. A qualitative study, 62 semi-structured interviews were conducted with respondents with acne, eczema or psoriasis recruited from both general practice and specialist dermatology practice in an Australian regional city. Interviews were audiotaped, transcribed and subjected to thematic analysis employing a process of constant comparison in which data collection and analysis were cumulative and concurrent. The themes of perfect skin, societal ideals and media influence emerged from this iterative process. Respondents identified a societal ideal of flawless skin, largely mediated by media portrayals of perfection. Failure to meet this ideal precipitated psychological morbidity in female, but not male, respondents. An appreciation of the pervasive pressures of society and media upon females with skin disease may inform management strategies, particularly psychological management strategies, in patients with skin disease.

Additional keywords: acne vulgaris, mass media.


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