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J Health Commun. 2014 May 28:1-9. [Epub ahead of print]

Injury News Coverage, Relative Concern, and Support for Alcohol-Control Policies: An Impersonal Impact Explanation.

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  • 1a School of Communication , The Ohio State University , Columbus , Ohio , USA.


Research on the impersonal impact hypothesis suggests that news (especially print) coverage of health and safety risks primarily influences perceptions of risk as a societal issue, and not perceptions of personal risk. The authors propose that the impersonal impact of news-impact primarily on concerns about social-level risks-will mediate effects of news stories on support for public health policies; such effects substantively matter as evidence suggests health policies, in turn, have important effects on protective behaviors and health outcomes. In an experiment using 60 randomly selected violent crime and accident news stories manipulated to contain or not contain reference to alcohol use as a causative factor, the authors find that the effect of stories that mention alcohol as a causative factor on support for alcohol-control policies is mediated by social-level concern and not by personal-level concern. In so doing, the authors provide a theoretical explanation as well as empirical evidence regarding the potential for news coverage-including breaking or episodic news-to influence health-related public policy.

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