COVID-19 Health Information Seeking: Knowledge & Vested Interests in Midwest Populations


Kaitlin Barnett

Document Type



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Publication Date

Spring 2021


Emerging infectious disease communication research has roots in risk communication, crisis communication and health promotion literature. Today a combination of emerging infectious disease (EID) and re-emerging infectious disease (rEID) are occurring more frequently. This study examines health information seeking behaviors, COVID-related knowledge and attitudes in Midwest populations. Vested interest (VI) theory is used to understand individual attitudes toward preventative behaviors. Findings from this study add to our understandings of the social and cultural environment surrounding the early-stage U.S. COVID-19 global outbreak. Participants completed an online survey about coronavirus (COVID-19) which polled their knowledge, vested interests, and health information seeking (HIS) behaviors during the early stage of the EID outbreak that began circulating in the U.S. population in the Winter/Spring of 2020. A total of 222 respondents completed an online survey consisting of 67 questions. On average, 40% of the participants reported ‘seeking, reading, and/or consuming information” about COVID-19 between 2-4 hours per day from interpersonal sources such as family members and friends, as well as subject matter experts. Results found individuals receiving information from schools 2-4 hours per day reported lower self-efficacy (M=4.93, SD=1.41) and lower personal susceptibility (M=3.66, SD=1.21) compared to those receiving no information from this source. Individuals receiving 4+ hours of information from social and digital platforms reported greater threat salience (M=6.05, SD=1.25) compared to others receiving less than 4-hours (M=4.99, SD=1.72) or no exposure (M=4.43, SD=2.00) through this medium.


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