Loneliness among older people in the Swedish media : Constructions, discourses and the designation of responsibility

Sammanfattning: 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.

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