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Epidemiol Health > Volume 43; 2021 > Article
Epidemiology and Health 2021;43: e2021072-0.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.4178/epih.e2021072    Published online Sep 23, 2021.
Words are not just words: how the use of media language in the COVID-19 era affects public health
Georgios P. Georgiou1,2 
1Department of Languages and Literature, University of Nicosia, Nicosia, Cyprus
2Department of Foreign Languages, RUDN University, Moscow, Russia
Correspondence  Georgios P. Georgiou ,Email: georgiou.georg@unic.ac.cy
Received: Jul 17, 2021  Accepted after revision: Sep 23, 2021
Abstract
OBJECTIVES:
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.
METHODS:
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.
RESULTS:
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.
CONCLUSIONS:
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.
Keywords: Epidemiology, COVID-19, Public health, Language
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