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Georgios P. Georgiou 1 Article
Words are not just words: how the use of media language in the COVID-19 era affects public health
Georgios P. Georgiou
Epidemiol Health. 2021;43:e2021072.   Published online September 23, 2021
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  • 2 Crossref
AbstractAbstract AbstractSummary PDF
Language can shape the way we perceive the world. In this paper, we investigated how exposure to media texts containing alarming and militaristic language affects peoples’ notions regarding coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and the consequences of this effect for public health.
After reading a passage including either alarming and militaristic or neutral terminology on COVID-19, participants completed a questionnaire in which they answered 4 questions on a 7-point Likert scale. The questions assessed participants’ notions on the end of the pandemic, vaccine effectiveness, and the consequences of COVID-19 for economies and mental health. Ordinal regression models in R were used for the analysis.
Individuals who were exposed to alarming and militaristic language expressed more pessimistic notions regarding COVID-19 than those who were exposed to more neutral language. However, both groups of individuals had similar notions regarding vaccine effectiveness.
The media should redefine the language they use for the description of the pandemic, considering that the extensive use of alarming and militaristic terminology may have a negative impact on public health.
Key Message
This study shows that exposure to alarming and militaristic terminology creates pessimistic notions about COVID-19. The media should avoid the extensive use of such terminology for the description of the pandemic, as this can negatively affect public health.


Citations to this article as recorded by  
  • Examining the association between the COVID-19 pandemic and self-harm death counts in four Canadian provinces
    Shelly Isnar, Mark Oremus
    Psychiatry Research.2022; 310: 114433.     CrossRef
  • How Has COVID-19 Impacted Our Language Use?
    Francesca Pisano, Alessio Manfredini, Daniela Brachi, Luana Landi, Lucia Sorrentino, Marianna Bottone, Chiara Incoccia, Paola Marangolo
    International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.2022; 19(21): 13836.     CrossRef

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