Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Medical Terms Worry More People Than Lay Terms, Study Finds

Date:
December 9, 2008
Source:
McMaster University
Summary:
The label used to identify a disease -- whether it is common language or medical terminology -- can influence how serious people think the condition is, according to new research. Impotence is now widely known as erectile dysfunction; excessive sweatiness is also known as hyperhidrosis.

The label used to identify a disease – whether it is common language or medical terminology – can influence how serious people think the condition is, according to new research from McMaster University, the second part of a larger study on how people understand and interpret disease.

Related Articles


The study, published online in the journal Public Library of Science One, examined many recently medicalized disorders. For example, impotence is now widely known as erectile dysfunction; excessive sweatiness is also known as hyperhidrosis.

Researchers found that when study participants were presented with the medicalized term for these recently medicalized conditions, they were perceived to be more severe, more likely to be a disease and more likely to be rare, compared to the same disorder presented with its synonymous lay label.

"A simple switch in terminology can result in a real bias in perception," says Meredith Young, one of the study's lead authors and a graduate student in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour at McMaster University. "These findings have implications for many areas, including medical communication with the public, corporate advertising and public policy."

Participants in the study were given a survey that included 16 disorders, eight of which were chosen due to the increased popular use of a medical label within the last 10 years (eg. erectile dysfunction versus impotence). The remaining eight were established medical disorders with both lay and medical terminology in popular use for more than 10 years (eg. hypertension versus high blood pressure).

"A lot of people have become critical of what is sometimes called 'disease-mongering' - or defining more and more conditions as diseases when they were previously just in the range of normal health, and a change in language certainly seems to accompany this," says Karin Humphreys, one of the study's authors and assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour. "We don't mean to dismiss any of the recently medicalized conditions we tested as trivial. Rather, because public understanding of these conditions is still in flux, they are an excellent place to examine how different terminology impacts this understanding."

The pattern of results has implications for the patient, researchers found. If a patient is informed that she has gastro esophageal reflux disease, for example, rather than chronic heartburn, she might think she is more ill. An important implication is that patient's understanding of the condition heavily influences how she goes about taking care of her own health.

For established medical conditions, researchers found that it did not make a difference in perception if a lay term was used or if subjects were presented with the medicalized language.

"We can see that there are a number of conditions where the medicalese term has, over the past ten years or so, been really rising in how often it is used, compared to the lay term for the same thing," says Humphreys. "This is particularly important when you have lots of conditions that have recently become medicalized, some of them possibly through the influence of pharmaceutical companies, who want to make you think that you have a disease that will need to be treated with a drug."

The study was funded by the National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by McMaster University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

McMaster University. "Medical Terms Worry More People Than Lay Terms, Study Finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 December 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081208123301.htm>.
McMaster University. (2008, December 9). Medical Terms Worry More People Than Lay Terms, Study Finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081208123301.htm
McMaster University. "Medical Terms Worry More People Than Lay Terms, Study Finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081208123301.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Fears Keep Guinea Hospitals Empty

Ebola Fears Keep Guinea Hospitals Empty

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) Fears of Ebola are keeping doctors and patients alike away from hospitals in the West African nation of Guinea. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Orthodontist Mom Jennifer Salzer on the Best Time for Braces

Orthodontist Mom Jennifer Salzer on the Best Time for Braces

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Is your child ready? Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.S. Issues Ebola Travel Restrictions, Are Visa Bans Next?

U.S. Issues Ebola Travel Restrictions, Are Visa Bans Next?

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) Now that the U.S. is restricting travel from West Africa, some are dropping questions about a travel ban and instead asking about visa bans. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
More People Diagnosed With TB In 2013, But There's Good News

More People Diagnosed With TB In 2013, But There's Good News

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) The World Health Organizations says TB numbers rose in 2013, but it's partly due to better detection and more survivors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins