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 March 30, 2015 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 March 30, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, March 30, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

S. Leone in New Anti-Ebola Lockdown

S. Leone in New Anti-Ebola Lockdown

AFP (Mar. 28, 2015) Sierra Leone imposed a three-day nationwide lockdown Friday for the second time in six months in a bid to prevent a resurgence of the deadly Ebola virus. Duration: 01:17 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
These Popular Antibiotics Can Cause Permanent Nerve Damage

These Popular Antibiotics Can Cause Permanent Nerve Damage

Newsy (Mar. 27, 2015) A popular class of antibiotic can leave patients in severe pain and even result in permanent nerve damage. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
WH Plan to Fight Antibiotic-Resistant Germs

WH Plan to Fight Antibiotic-Resistant Germs

AP (Mar. 27, 2015) The White House on Friday announced a five-year plan to fight the threat posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria amid fears that once-treatable germs could become deadly. (March 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
House Ready to Pass Medicare Doc Bill

House Ready to Pass Medicare Doc Bill

AP (Mar. 26, 2015) In rare bipartisan harmony, congressional leaders pushed a $214 billion bill permanently blocking physician Medicare cuts toward House passage Thursday, moving lawmakers closer to resolving a problem that has plagued them for years. (March 26) Video provided by AP
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