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It is a scandal! Comparing the causes and consequences of nursing home media scandals in five countries

Liz Lloyd (School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK)
Albert Banerjee (York University, Toronto, Canada)
Charlene Harrington (Social and Behavioural Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA)
Frode F. Jacobsen (Bergen University College, Bergen, Norway)
Marta Szebehely (Department of Social Work, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 4 March 2014




This study aims to explore the causes and consequences of media scandals involving nursing homes for older persons in Canada, Norway, Sweden, the UK and the USA.


This study uses a descriptive case-study methodology which provides an in-depth, focused, qualitative analysis of one selected nursing home scandal in each jurisdiction. Scandals were selected on the basis of being substantive enough to potentially affect policy. An international comparative perspective was adopted to consider whether and how different social, political and economic contexts might shape scandals and their consequences.


This study found that for-profit residential care provision as well as international trends in the ownership and financing of nursing homes were factors in the emergence of all media scandals, as was investigative reporting and a lack of consensus around the role of the state in the delivery of residential care. All scandals resulted in government action but such action generally avoided addressing underlying structural conditions.

Research limitations/implications

This study examines only the short-term effects of five media scandals.


While there has been longstanding recognition of the importance of scandals to the development of residential care policy, there have been few studies that have systematically examined the causes and consequences of such scandals. This paper contributes to a research agenda that more fully considers the media's role in the development of residential care policy, attending to both its promises and shortcomings.



The authors would like to recognise the funding of the Social Sciences Major Collaborative Research Initiative, “Reimagining long-term residential care: an international study of promising practices” which made possible the initial discussions for this article. The authors would also like to acknowledge the contributions of Robert James and Sachne J. Kilner.


Lloyd, L., Banerjee, A., Harrington, C., F. Jacobsen, F. and Szebehely, M. (2014), "It is a scandal! Comparing the causes and consequences of nursing home media scandals in five countries", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 34 No. 1/2, pp. 2-18.



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