Studies from Humana and Dr. Stacy L. Smith at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism reveal prevalence of ageism in film and the power of embracing a healthy mindset for healthy aging
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--New research reveals few characters aged 60 and over are represented in film, and that prominent senior characters face demeaning or ageist references. These negative and stereotypical media portrayals do not reflect how seniors see themselves – or their lifestyles. These findings stem from two studies conducted by health and well-being company Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) and the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative at University of Southern California’s (USC) Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The studies also reveal that aging Americans who are more optimistic report having better health.
Led by Dr. Stacy L. Smith, USC’s study analyzed the 100 top-grossing films from 2015 to assess the portrayal of characters aged 60 and over. Humana also conducted a quantitative analysis, asking seniors to identify the lifestyle traits that are important when aging, to assess the degree to which these traits describe them and to provide their point of view on senior representation in media. Major findings include:
“Seniors are rarely seen on screen, and when they are, they are ridiculed,” said Dr. Stacy L. Smith, director of the Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. “When did we become a society that is comfortable with subtle and stigmatizing stereotypes about a group that have long served as the pillars and stalwarts of our communities?”
Dr. Yolangel Hernandez Suarez, vice president and chief medical officer, care delivery at Humana said: “As a health care company, we’re committed to helping aging Americans defy stereotypes and take steps to achieve their best health. That’s why it’s important to note that, according to our findings, seniors who report being optimistic about the aging process also report better health. As a Boomer myself, I can tell you that being optimistic about my future helps me make healthier choices every day.”
Key findings surrounding both studies will be showcased at The Atlantic Live! New Old Age conference today in New York City. The event will feature the foremost experts of aging in America spanning entertainment, media, academia and business to examine the state of aging and its impact in society. Both Humana and USC will lead individual discussions to explore the findings in greater detail, which will be available to watch during The New Old Age’s livestream broadcast.
About the Humana Quantitative Analysis
This survey includes 2,035 responses from U.S. adults aged 60 and older. Data weights are based on U.S. Census statistics for age, gender, geographic region, and race/ethnicity. It was conducted between August 4 - 21, 2016, and was designed to assess perceptions of the importance of various traits, characteristics or attributes of people as they age, then to have respondents rate themselves against the same attributes. Other data collected include general self-assessment of health, activity levels and perception of aging in popular culture.
About the USC Film Study
USC conducted a secondary analysis of the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative’s yearly report profiling every speaking or named character on screen across a variety of measures (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity, LGBT, disability). Using this database, the researchers quantitatively analyzed attributes of each character 60 years of age or older on screen (n=448) across the 100 most popular domestic movies of 2015. To determine age, the evaluators sorted each character into one of five age categories: child (0-5), elementary schooler (6-12), teen (13-20), young adult (21-39), middle aged (40-64), and elderly (65 or older).
Humana Inc., headquartered in Louisville, Ky., is a leading health and well-being company focused on making it easy for people to achieve their best health with clinical excellence through coordinated care. The company’s strategy integrates care delivery, the member experience, and clinical and consumer insights to encourage engagement, behavior change, proactive clinical outreach and wellness for the millions of people we serve across the country.
More information regarding Humana is available to investors via the Investor Relations page of the company’s web site at www.humana.com, including copies of:
About USC Annenberg Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative
The Media Diversity & Social Change Initiative (MDSCI) at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is a leading think tank studying diversity in entertainment through original and sponsored research. MDSCI findings create valuable and sought after research based solutions that advance equality in entertainment. Dr. Stacy L. Smith is the Founder and Director of the MDSCI. Dr. Smith and the MDSCI examine gender, race/ethnicity, LGBT, and disability on screen and gender and race/ethnicity behind the camera in cinematic content as well as barriers and opportunities facing women and people of color in the entertainment industry. The MDSCI also conducts economic analyses related to diversity and the financial performance of films. In 2015, Dr. Smith was named the #1 Most Influential Person in Los Angeles by LA Weekly. Dr. Smith has written more than 100 journal articles, book chapters, and reports on content patterns and effects of the media. In terms of the popular press, Dr. Smith’s research has been written about in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, Newsweek, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and NPR. She has a co-edited essay in Maria Shriver’s book, A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything (2009). Dr. Smith and the MDSCI’s most recent research reports include an analysis of 800 top-grossing films, the Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity in Entertainment (CARD) and a series of landmark studies with Sundance Institute and Women in Film Los Angeles. To learn more, visit http://annenberg.usc.edu/mdsci or follow on Twitter @MDSCInitiative.
About the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
Located in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California, the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is a national leader in education and scholarship in the fields of communication, journalism, public diplomacy and public relations. With an enrollment of more than 2,200 students, USC Annenberg offers doctoral, graduate and undergraduate degree programs, as well as continuing development programs for working professionals, across a broad scope of academic inquiry. The school's comprehensive curriculum emphasizes the core skills of leadership, innovation, service and entrepreneurship and draws upon the resources of a networked university in a global urban environment. Based at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism in the heart of Los Angeles, the USC Center for Public Relations (CPR) is truly at the center of one of the world’s most dynamic professions. Our mission is to connect corporations, agencies, academics and students to define the future of our industry and to develop those who will shape it.