Change over time in Australian newspaper reporting of drinking during pregnancy: a content analysis (2000–2017) Academic Article uri icon


  • AIMS:This paper analyses the content of news media messages on drinking during pregnancy in Australia over an 18-year period to understand whether and how the nature of messages communicated to women has changed over time. METHODS:Factiva was used to search Australian newspapers from 2000 to 2017, resulting in a sample of 1394 articles from the 18 major national and state-based newspapers. Content analysis of articles was undertaken, and Poisson regression analysis was used to assess changes over time. RESULTS:The largest number of articles on drinking during pregnancy was published in 2007. Themes that significantly increased over time included Harms to the Child (from 0.97% in 2008 to 29.69% in 2015) and Prevention Initiatives (from 0% in 2005 to 12.50% in 2017). Articles endorsing women not consuming alcohol during pregnancy significantly increased over time (from 20.69% in 2001 to 53.78% in 2013), matched by a decreasing trend in the proportion of articles presenting mixed advice (from 15.93% in 2009 to 0% in 2017). The largest number of articles adopted no position in relation to women's consumption. CONCLUSIONS:A stronger abstinence message during pregnancy has been communicated through Australian newspaper media over time. The mixed messaging and large number of articles not endorsing a position on consumption may reflect the inconclusiveness of the evidence on harms from low to moderate levels of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Opportunities remain for researchers to work with public health advocates to disseminate balanced messages based on evidence-based research.

publication date

  • 2020