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Colleen Derkatch, Associate Professor, Department of English

Prof. Colleen Derkatch

Associate Professor
DepartmentDepartment of English
Areas of Expertiserhetoric of wellness in North American culture, research ethics, English language

Self-generating language of wellness and natural health

Funded by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant, Dr. Colleen Derkatch, opens in new window is examining the rhetoric of wellness in North American culture and how pervasive this term is. In particular, she is exploring how people define the term ‘wellness’: what it means to protect our wellbeing and what we are protecting ourselves from.

Dr. Derkatch theorizes that the rapid rise of the wellness industry over the past two decades is due, in part, to the language people use to describe their health, bodies and selves. Indeed, the term “wellness” seems to surround our daily lives, from wellness foods and supplements to smartphone apps; even hotels are offering wellness package deals.

By examining how individuals, corporations, lawmakers and the media discuss the regulation, marketing, and use of national health supplements in North America, Dr. Derkatch will demonstrate that wellness is being framed in public discourse in two different ways simultaneously. First, she hypotheses that ‘wellness’ is defined as a state of optimized health, for example where supplements help individuals feel more energized or sleep better. However, at the same time, people perceive wellness ironically as a state of illness, where supplements are consumed to treat or reduce the risk of disease. She will argue that ‘wellness’ sells because, within these opposing frames, wellness is always a moving target – one that may not empower individuals to take charge of their own health – and potentially even cause harm.