Wellness and wellbeing are terms emerging in a broad range of literature often encompassing mental, physical and emotional health. They are also common in social discourse. However, there is limited understanding about the terms' use within Australian society. Print media provides a forum where social discourse can be observed. The aim was to explore and describe the use of the terms wellness and wellbeing in articles and advertisements in Australian print media.
Back-copies of 351 Australian newspapers and 156 magazines from the period 2006 to 2008 available from public libraries were examined. A pilot review pre-determined categories for content analysis through constant comparison. Dimensions of wellness and wellbeing portrayed within the articles were identified using thematic analysis. 256 newspaper and 44 magazine incidences of the terms were found, in a broad range of articles and advertisements covering contexts such as travel, political, food and health.
Four major themes were identified: halo associations with products, institutions or therapies; unidentified positive connections with food, diet and weight loss; implied health claims for food; and associations with happiness and contentment. Wellness and wellbeing are terms not used synonymously with health in the Australian print media. They can be more accurately described as associated with psychological dimensions such as supporting important personal goals, or natural and holistic lifestyle choices.
The findings may assist health professionals understand the use of these terms by clients and consumers and help in the development of effective communications.