Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Janet Hankin


Consumer-targeted prescription drug advertising serves as an interesting lens through which we can examine the portrayal of menopause in online drug advertisements. The aim of this study was to explore the portrayal of menopause on web sites sponsored by pharmaceutical companies for hormone therapies (HT). To unravel this question, a qualitative content analysis of web sites for FDA-approved hormone therapies was employed. A total number of 608 printed pages of web site content from eight web sites (N=8) were analyzed. Key findings elucidated how menopause was portrayed on the pharmaceutical web sites. First, descriptions of menopause articulated a biomedical perspective of menopause. In adopting a biomedical perspective, menopause was described as a medical event requiring medical treatment. Second, the web sites employed the terminology of illness, including the term “symptoms” which is a medically symbolic term. Women were told that their symptoms were to be assessed, tracked, and managed which related to a disease-like model of menopause. If left untreated, the web sites implied that symptoms could lead to hampered sex lives and a reduced sense of self. Third, the web sites were prescriptive and advocated consumer behaviors. Specifically, women were told to “ask” their health care provider about HT. Likewise, the “expert” role of the physician in providing a diagnosis was also reinforced. Fourth, another distinguishing characteristic was the lack of scientific evidence provided for consumers to support proclaimed benefits. The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) was framed in a positive light and consumers were told that potential benefits of HT may outweigh the risks. Finally, the reading level of the pharmaceutical web sites far surpassed the reading level of the average adult in the United States. Overall, my findings reinforced the acceptance and dominance of the biomedical model of menopause in advertising. Additionally, one of the strengths of this study was the analysis of the reading level, online self-diagnosing symptom tools, and the framing of the WHI in online pharmaceutical advertisements. To this end, this research contributes to the existing body of literature to include analyses of representations of menopause on pharmaceutical web sites.