“The baby-boom is over and the ageing shock awaits”: populist media imagery in news-press representations of population ageing

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Anna Sofia Lundgren
Karin Ljuslinder

Abstract

From an international perspective, media representations of population ageing have been described as apocalyptic in character. In this article, we analyse the way population ageing is represented in three Swedish newspapers: Aftonbladet, Dagens Nyheter and Västerbottens-Kuriren. The aim is to investigate Swedish news-press representations of population ageing and the old age identities that they offer. We conduct qualitative analyses of the articulations between the verbal content and the use of illustrations, metaphorical language, headlines and captions using the concepts offered by discourse theory. The analysis of the material shows that the studied newspapers firmly position population ageing within a wider discourse of political economy and as a threat to the concept of welfare. Growth is promoted as a self-evident means for adjusting to the expected threat. Illustrations and metaphorical language helped to constitute population ageing as a serious, dichotomised (e.g. young vs. Old) and emotive (e.g. addressing anxiety and ear) problem. The analyses also show how the representations of population ageing bear some populist features, and we argue that such features support a de-politicisation of the phenomenon population ageing.

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