The War Against Dementia

Are We Battle Weary Yet?

Heather Patricia Lane; SueAnne McLachlan; Jennifer Philip


Age Ageing. 2013;42(3):281-283. 

In This Article

Positive Aspects of Military Metaphors

Military metaphors can be effective in raising the profile of health issues, bringing them to public and media attention. For example, prior to the establishment of the Women's Field Army, breast cancer was rarely discussed, with medical attention often sought late through fear and embarrassment.

Military metaphors can also be used for marketing. For researchers, such language can improve research profiles and garner publicity. Charitable fundraising efforts are likely to be enhanced by talk of battles and fighting, with winning the battle held out as an incentive for contribution. For the mainstream media, military metaphors are likely to grab the reader's attention and increase sales.

At the individual level, metaphors can aid understanding and communication. Military metaphors appear to resonate with both patients and doctors. For some, they come naturally and are helpful, imparting a sense of control at a time of uncertainty and powerlessness, and can assist in focusing attention on completing investigative procedures, surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment. Menaker reports personally finding military metaphors useful when following a complex treatment regime and when facing surgery. He noted 'it may be a kind of self-delusion, but it may assist in self-preservation'.[26]