Capitalising on ageing anxieties: Promissory discourse and the creation of an ‘anti-ageing treatment’ market

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Long portrayed as a potential economic burden, population ageing is increasingly viewed as offering new marketing opportunities. This is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the market of ‘anti-ageing treatments’ (AATs). Over the last two decades, this market has rapidly expanded to encompass a vast variety of products that are advertised for their promise to prevent, delay, reverse or mask the effects of ageing. Drawing on ideas from economic sociology and science and technology studies, this article explores the character, foundations and operations of the promissory discourse that underpins the AAT market. It is argued that this discourse rests upon assumptions about the operations of markets and about how consumer products are ascribed value that are problematic and exploit the anxieties that surround ageing and self-responsibility for health. It is a discourse that serves to reinforce the commodification of ageing and ageism. The article concludes by suggesting that, while the promissory discourse of AATs will be difficult to sustain over the longer term, since what is promised mostly cannot be delivered, its personal and societal impacts over the short to medium term are likely to be profound.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-202
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Sociology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • ageing
  • anti-ageing
  • baby boomer
  • promissory
  • treatment market

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