Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Overly Emotional Language May Be Counter-productive When Issuing Warnings About Pandemics And Hospital Infections

Date:
August 8, 2009
Source:
Economic & Social Research Council
Summary:
Giving people a sense of being in control is an important element in health messages, according to researchers. The research looked at how language used in policy messages and media coverage affects the public perception of health threats. The report warns that lyrical and over-emotional language may be counter-productive when issuing warnings and advice about pandemics and hospital infections.

'During the SARS and bird flu scare scientists and health organisations used disaster metaphors, such as "tsunami," "perfect storm" and "bio-terrorism" to mobilise the media, governments, and individuals to prepare for a pandemic in waiting. Such terms can make people sit up and listen, but they can also lead to panic or cynicism,' says Professor Brigitte Nerlich, who led the research.

'Recent advice on swine flu has centred on basic hygiene, which makes people feel they can do something practical, instead of being mere victims of so-called "superbugs" or "killer viruses". But obviously this is easier to do when a disease is relatively benign.'

Professor Nerlich points out that easier internet access might also help people to feel in control, an issue that emerged from a previous ESRC project on foot and mouth disease carried out in Nottingham. Nowadays, and especially in the context of swine flu, 'email, Twitter, and public health sites all give information and advice which can be useful to worried individuals and may dampen down panic,' she says. 'But more research needs to be done in this area'

This research focused on MRSA along with avian flu and was conducted by a multidisciplinary team with expertise in nursing, the social study of health and illness, environmental studies and linguistics. It compared the language of biosecurity, hygiene and cleanliness used in policy documents and media coverage with the language used by hospital matrons and poultry farmers dealing with the realities of MRSA and avian flu. 'We found that the way people communicate about a threat largely determines how they understand it and behave towards it,' says Professor Nerlich.

Additional findings established that media coverage of hygiene and cleanliness in hospitals tended to portray doctors and nurses engaged in a heroic "battle" against "intelligent super bugs. This was personified by the modern matron wielding the weapon of "cleanliness." Interviews with hospital matrons revealed a gap between the media portrayal and the reality on the wards. Matrons said that the limitations in their authority over contractors, and time constraints made it impossible for them to spend even half their time as a "visible presence" on the wards.

'This was another example of the control issue,' says Brigitte Nerlich. 'Modern matrons have limited powers to limit the spread of infection or improve hygiene. For instance, they can't hire extra nursing staff for barrier nursing or deal with problems with cleaning contractors. Our findings highlight the need for policy messages to be translated more accurately into practice.'

The study "Talking cleanliness in health and agriculture" was funded by ESRC. The research was conducted by Professor Brigitte Nerlich, Professor Paul Crawford, Professor Ronald Carter, Dr Brian Brown, Dr Nelya Koteyko and Dr Nick Wright.

The findings are based on analysis of media and policy coverage of avian flu and MRSA and data from interviews with practitioners in agriculture and nursing.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Economic & Social Research Council. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Economic & Social Research Council. "Overly Emotional Language May Be Counter-productive When Issuing Warnings About Pandemics And Hospital Infections." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 August 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090807091019.htm>.
Economic & Social Research Council. (2009, August 8). Overly Emotional Language May Be Counter-productive When Issuing Warnings About Pandemics And Hospital Infections. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090807091019.htm
Economic & Social Research Council. "Overly Emotional Language May Be Counter-productive When Issuing Warnings About Pandemics And Hospital Infections." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090807091019.htm (accessed April 21, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, April 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Nine-Month-Old Baby Can't Open His Mouth

Nine-Month-Old Baby Can't Open His Mouth

Newsy (Apr. 19, 2014) Nine-month-old Wyatt Scott was born with a rare disorder called congenital trismus, which prevents him from opening his mouth. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) In a potential breakthrough for future obesity treatments, scientists have used MRI scans to pinpoint brown fat in a living adult for the first time. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) A new report shows rates of two foodborne infections increased in the U.S. in recent years, while salmonella actually dropped 9 percent. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The breakthrough could mean a cure for some serious diseases and even the possibility of human cloning, but it's all still a way off. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins