Attention to the media and worry over becoming infected: The case of the Swine Flu (H1N1) Epidemic of 2009

Gustavo S. Mesch, Kent P. Schwirian, Tanya Kolobov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines the relationship between attention to the mass media and concern about becoming infected with H1N1 in two nationwide random samples interviewed during the flu epidemic of 2009. The first sample (N=1004) was taken at the end of the first wave of the outbreak in the US and the second sample (N=1006) was taken as the second wave was accelerating. The data were gathered by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Over the period studied, the percentage worried about becoming infected increased in almost all social categories of respondents. With social category controlled, both those who followed the H1N1 outbreak closely and those who were more interested in reports about it were more likely to be worried about becoming infected. As time went on, interest in media reports declined, but worry over infection continued to increase. Our findings imply that despite the decrease in the percentage of the population expressing interest and following the news, media exposure was the most important factor as it explained the likelihood of being concerned about the possibility of infection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-331
Number of pages7
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013


  • Epidemic
  • Fear
  • H1N1
  • Mass media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Policy


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