Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Communication and Information

Major Professor

John E. Haley

Committee Members

Ronald E. Taylor, Kathleen C. Brown, Lori A. Roessner


Direct-to-physician advertising is an important field to study because it has the ability to effect patient’s health. Historically, the marketing and advertising structure of the pharmaceutical industry has rewarded high decile prescribers. This incentive based system is inherently flawed as it encourages irrational prescribing behaviors. Since the 1950s, there has been a concern regarding the correlation between advertised promotion and physician’s prescribing behaviors. A central argument in this study is that there is a strong relationship between promotion and prescribing and that physicians are influenced by advertising. One class of medications that appear to influential via advertising is antidepressants. Previous research has indicated that women are most likely to be prescribed an antidepressant due to the over representation of women in medical journal antidepressant advertising. This study presents a narrative analysis of antidepressant advertising between 1990 and 2010. This timeframe is selected because it represents the rise of SSRIs, the biomedical model of science, and the deregulation of direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising. It is shown that the models depicted in antidepressant advertising over represent women by a ratio of 6:1 as compared to men. Additionally, the depiction of women is a distorted one as the model is positioned as being rather glamorous, educated, and quite wealthier than the depression candidate. According to epidemiology reports, people who live in poverty and have less of an educational attainment tend to suffer from depression. However, these are not the people who are depicted within the promotions which can mislead physicians about the depression patient. These portrayals further reflect the notion that depression has become regarded as being fashionable and some perceive it to be a lifestyle accessory. This is a disturbing consideration. The over representation of women in antidepressant advertising may result in the inappropriate prescribing and misdiagnosis of women for depression. Currently, women are misdiagnosed 30-50 percent of the time for depression. Through the re-evaluation of the biomedical model, the rethinking about the graphic design of advertisements and through the education of medical and health care students, the tendency for women’s health to be compromised may be reduced.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."