Growing evidence suggests that physical activity, healthy diets, and social engagement may promote cognitive health. Popular media helps establish the public health agenda. In this study, we describe articles about cognitive health in top-circulating women's and men's magazines.
To identify articles on cognitive health, we manually searched all pages of 4 top-circulating women's magazines and 4 top-circulating men's magazines published in 2006 and 2007 to identify articles on cognitive health. We examined article volume, narrative and illustrative content, information sources, and contact resources.
Women's magazines had 27 cognitive health articles (5.32/1,000 pages), and men's magazines had 26 (5.26/1,000 pages). Diet was the primary focus (>75% of content) in 30% of articles in women's magazines and 27% of men's magazines. Vitamins/supplements were the focus of 15% of articles in men's magazines and 11% in women's magazines. Articles mentioned physical activity, cognitive activity, and social interaction, although these subjects were rarely the focus. Articles focused more on prevention than treatment. Topics were primarily "staying sharp," memory, and Alzheimer's disease. Colleges/universities were most often cited as sources; contacts for further information were rare. Most articles were illustrated.
Although the volume of cognitive health articles was similar in the magazines, content differed. More articles in men's magazines discussed multiple chronic conditions (eg, Alzheimer's disease), whereas more in women's magazines discussed memory. Including more articles that focus on physical activity and direct readers to credible resources could enhance the quality of cognitive health communication in the popular media.