We sought to elucidate news article reporting of adverse public psychosocial behaviors, in particular, rumor-related coverage (eg, panic, demagoguery) and exclusive behavior coverage (negative behaviors, eg, discrimination, bullying) during the 2009 influenza A (H1N1) influenza pandemic in Japan.
We examined 154 Internet news-site articles reporting adverse public psychosocial responses in the first 60 days of the outbreak. Rumor-related coverage and exclusive behavior coverage were dichotomously coded as included or not. Moreover, we assessed whether or not health information (eg, coping methods, virus toxicity information) or emphasis on information quality (eg, importance of information, cautions about overreactions) were simultaneously reported.
Rumor-related coverage (n=120, 77.9%) was less likely to simultaneously report public health information (eg, toxicity information, health support information, and cautions about overreactions; P<.05). Conversely, exclusive behavior coverage (n=41, 26.6%) was more likely to report public health information (P<.05).
Rumor-related coverage was less likely to have accompanying public health information, whereas exclusive behavior coverage was more likely to include it. During public health crises, it is essential to understand that rumors and exclusive behaviors have adverse effects on the public and that accompanying public health information may help people take proactive coping actions. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2015;9:459–463)
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