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Fabiola Creed

Research Overview

I am a fourth-year History of Medicine PhD, undertaking the final write-up stage of my thesis. My research is supervised by Professor Roberta Bivins and is kindly funded by the Wellcome Trust. My thesis is provisionally titled 'Advertising, Stereotypes and ‘Addiction’: Understanding Sunbed Representation in England, 1970s-1990s'.

In the UK, the term 'sunbed' appeared in print press adverts in 1978. The first part of my thesis evaluates these adverts from the late 1970s to late 1980s. I explore both indoor tanning devices (used in private households) and ‘tanning parlours’ (located in unregulated public spaces). A visual analysis of print press material, trade directories and national television programmes demonstrate where sunbeds initially emerged; the types of local, national and international manufacturing businesses drawn to selling sunbeds; the adverts' original target audiences, and finally, how sunbeds were marketed as both 'healthy' and 'safe' to the public. Further analysis of business archive material illustrates how sunbeds (both domestic and public) became an accepted and popular technology throughout the 1980s.

Having investigated the factors which drove the 'excess persistence' of sunbed use, the second part of my thesis explores the media-induced ‘moral panic’ surrounding sunbed consumption. In 1991, the first medical authority officially coined the term ‘Tanorexia’ (or 'sunbed addiction') in Britain. This weight given by public health officials led to an emergence of an undesirable 'Tanorexic' stereotype within a wide-range of 1990s print press and visual material. The 'Tanorexic' was framed and stigmatised on national television, via comedies, documentaries, talk shows and news reports. Through evaluating these media, I argue that this gendered and class-based stereotype extends the histories of women (and homosexual men) being criticised for ‘vain’ and ‘feminine’ consumptions. However, the media-induced moral panic was also an attempt to decrease skin cancer rates, aiming to improve the long-term health of the British public.

My research on the sunbed industry builds on the history of how 'mixed media' and medical research changes the representation of consumptions - particularly those related to health commerce; 'healthy' bodies; 'excess'; moral panic; stereotyping; stigma, and finally 'addiction'. An exploration of the sunbed industry also adds to the historical narratives that address class, gender, race, age and sexuality.

Research Interests and Approaches

Twentieth-century British history of:

  • industry, marketing and franchises;
  • 'Visual Culture' of commercial adverts, 'addiction' (or portrayals of 'excess') and public health campaigns;
  • audio-visual representations of consumptions, 'healthy bodies', and broadcasts of medical advice (from both 'factual' and 'fictional' television genres);
  • skincare, health and medicine;
  • culture-bound syndromes;
  • the socio-cultural framing of ‘diseases’ and ‘disorders’;
  • gender inequities in mental health and illness;
  • and oral history approaches.

Academic Profile

  •  2016 – 2019: Medical Humanities PhD, Centre for the History of Medicine, University of Warwick, (Originally titled): ‘Aesthetics, Addictions and Health advice: Understanding ‘Tanorexia’ in Contemporary Britain, 1978-2016’. Supported by the Wellcome Trust. Supervised by Professor Roberta Bivins.
    Spring Term 2018: Audited an MA module, ‘Television History and Aesthetics’, to develop my understandings of 'neo-liberal' bodies portrayed through audio-visual media. Taught by Professor Rachel Moseley (Department of Film and Television Studies).

  • 2015 – 2016: MA History of Medicine (Distinction), Centre for the History of Medicine, University of Warwick.
    Dissertation Title: ‘THE TANOREXIA TIMEBOMB’: The History of Sunbed Addiction and The Sunbed Industry in England, 1978-2015. Supervised by Professor Roberta Bivins. Supported by the Wellcome Trust.

  • 2011 – 2014: BA Combined Honours: History and Music (First Class), University of Liverpool.
    Dissertation Title: The History of Bulimia Nervosa among America Males in New York, 1970-1999. Supervised by Dr Stephen Kenny.
    2014: David Thistlewood Award (highest overall mark in Year 2 and Year 3 in the Combined Honours programme).
    2012: Study Abroad Semester Scheme (awarded the sole exchange position on the Combined Honours course to study at Monash University, Melbourne).


Policy Report
Book Reviews
  • Creed, Fabiola, Review of 'Tania Woloshyn, Soaking up the Rays: Light Therapy and Visual Culture in Britain, C. 1890-1940 (Manchester: University of Manchester Press, 2017)' in Social History of Medicine, (February 2019).

Conference Papers

Teaching, Research and Public Engagement Experience

Other Responsibilities

        CHM, Warwick and CHM logo


        ‘Dreaming of a Brown Christmas?, Telegraph Sunday, December 1981.


        ‘Tanorexia’, Daily Mail, 16 May 1996.

        Ruining health

        Daily Mail, 30 July 2009.