Celebrity Health Announcements and Online Health Information Seeking: An Analysis of Angelina Jolie’s Preventative Health Decision

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On May 14, 2013, Angelina Jolie disclosed she carries BRCA1, which means she has an 87% risk of developing breast cancer during her lifetime. Jolie decided to undergo a preventative bilateral mastectomy (PBM), reducing her risk to 5%. The purpose of this study was to analyze the type of information individuals are exposed to when using the Internet to search health information regarding Jolie’s decision. Qualitative content analysis revealed four main themes—information about genetics, information about a PBM, information about health care, and information about Jolie’s gender identity. Broadly, the identified websites mention Jolie’s high risk for developing cancer due to the genetic mutation BRCA1, describe a PBM occasionally noting reasons why she had this surgery and providing alternatives to the surgery, discuss issues related to health care services, costs, and insurances about Jolie’s health decision, and portray Jolie as a sexual icon, a partner to Brad Pitt, a mother of six children, and an inspirational humanitarian. The websites also depict Jolie’s health decision in positive, negative, and/or both ways. Discussion centers on how this actress’ health decision impacts the public.

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Health Communication, v. 31, issue 6, p. 752-761