Academic journal article Health Sociology Review

'Anti-Ageing Medicine' in Australia: Global Trends and Local Practices to Redefine Ageing

Academic journal article Health Sociology Review

'Anti-Ageing Medicine' in Australia: Global Trends and Local Practices to Redefine Ageing

Article excerpt


The modality of 'anti-ageing medicine' in Australia started in 1999, in Melbourne, with the opening of The Redwood Clinic, launched by Robert Goldman, a co-founder of the American Academy of Anti-Ageing Medicine (A4M). Since then many anti-ageing clinics have been set up in major Australian cities including the Australian Anti-Ageing Clinic in Sydney (1999), The Spa Chakra in Woolloomooloo, the Australian Life Extension and Enhancement Clinic in Queensland (2001), Eternal Health in Sydney, Melbourne Anti-Ageing Clinic, and internet-based 'clinics' such as Supplemax. In Western Australia, there are more than 20 doctors practising anti-ageing medicine (The West Australian 2005). These clinics and practitioners often seek to replicate the advertising strategies and narratives of ageing used in the United States anti-ageing industry. Cultural specifi cities, regulatory frameworks and social policy directions in Australia have, however, given the local antiageing industry unique characteristics which I will proceed to discuss.

Materials and methods

This study proceeded using the following means:

* Twenty-five in-depth qualitative interviews were held in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane with both users and providers of 'anti-ageing medicine' as well as other key stakeholders in the anti-ageing debates.

* A variety of texts relevant to the discourse, including anti-ageing literature, biogerontological research magazines, media channels, and popular magazines, were critically analysed.

* Social theories of globalisation were used to understand the interplay between the global and local structures that shape the expansion of the anti-ageing market.


The age of the users and providers of anti-ageing products interviewed for this study ranged from 42-74 years; seven interviewees were women and 15 were men. The majority of the respondents were from professional backgrounds including a lawyer, fi lm producer, designer and doctors; some were retired while others had their own businesses. Their professional background raises important questions about the relationship between class and culture, and more specifi cally the relationship between anti-ageing medicine and class values. Bourdieu's notion of habitus as 'dispositions to a certain practice' (Bourdieu 1994:77) will be applied in the analysis of the interviews to explore the extent to which the type of bodily practices which people take up as they get older refl ects the repertoire of dispositions available to people who reach such ages (Vincent 2006).

The health status of the respondents also merits some comment. Out of the 18 users of anti-ageing medicine, 15 reported to have no specifi c health concerns apart from the fact that they were 'ageing' and felt less energetic and physically appealing. Four respondents mentioned mental health issues including depression and two of them, a man and a woman, were currently using anti-depressants. The absence of specifi c physical health problems refl ects a change in the relationship between doctor/patient as well as a blurring of the boundaries between health and disease. The 'worried well' syndrome (Elliot 2004) can be applied to these respondents, suggesting an erosion of the notion of 'health' and, as discussed later in this study, an increasing tendency towards the medicalisation of life itself, in which changes and transitions in the lifecourse become increasingly understood and managed through biomedical narratives and interventions.

The American version of 'anti-ageing medicine'

The term 'anti-ageing medicine' was coined in America in 1992 when the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M) was established. As explained by the A4M, the term refers to 'the application of innovative diagnostic and therapeutic interventions that aim to detect, prevent and treat aging related diseases' (A4M website 2009). The A4M uses the notion of antiageing medicine to group together an array of modalities and health practices, some of which are derived from mainstream medical knowledge and scientifi c research on ageing, and others from the CAM industry. …

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