Health commodified, health communified: navigating digital consumptionscapes of well-being


Historically, research on perceptions of health either converged upon the meanings created and proposed by specialists in the healthcare industry or focused on people who have medical conditions. This approach has failed to capture how the meanings and notions of health have been evolving as medicine extends into non-medical spheres and has left gaps in the exploration of how the meanings surrounding health and well-being are constructed, negotiated and reproduced in lay discourse. This paper aims to fill this gap in the understanding of the perceptions surrounding health by investigating consumers’ digitized visual accounts on social media.
Textual network and visual content analyses of posts extracted from Instagram are used to derive conclusions on definitions of health and well-being as perceived by healthy lay individuals.
Research demonstrates that digital discourse of health is clustered around four F’s, namely, food, fitness, fashion and feelings, which can be categorized with respect to their degrees of representation on a commodification/communification versus bodily/spiritual well-being map.
Our knowledge about the meanings of health as constructed and reflected by healthy lay people is very limited and even more so about how these meaning-making processes is realized through digital media. This paper contributes to theory by integrating consumers’ meaning-making literature into health perceptions, as well as investigating the role of social networks in enabling a consumptionscape of well-being. Besides a methodological contribution of using social network analysis on textual data, this paper also provides valuable insights for policy-makers, communicators and professionals of health.

European Journal of Marketing




14 November 2017

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