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New study reveals impact of media coverage on behavior during Covid-19 in Sweden

In their paper, recently accepted at Health Economics, researchers Marcel Garz from Jönköping University and Maiting Zhuang from the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics (SITE), shed light on the influence of media coverage on individual behavior during the Covid-19 pandemic in Sweden.

About the paper

Titled "Media Coverage and Pandemic Behaviour: Evidence from Sweden," the paper delves into the relationship between media mentions of Covid-19 and changes in people's behavior. The researchers, Marcel Garz and Maiting Zhuang, analyzed a vast dataset comprising of 200,000 newspaper articles about the pandemic in Sweden - a country that unusually did not enforce lockdowns or curfews.

The findings reveal a significant correlation between media coverage and shifts in behavior patterns. Specifically, mentions of Covid-19 in the media led to a decrease in visits to workplaces and retail and recreation areas. Conversely, there was an increase in the duration of stays in residential locations.

Employing two distinct identification strategies, the researchers established a causal link between media coverage and behavioral changes. Moreover, the study highlights that the impact of media coverage is most pronounced when news stories are locally relevant, visible, and factual. Articles referencing crisis managers and offering explicit public health advice were found to have large effects on behavior.

These findings carry broad implications for public communication strategies and underscore the value of local media in shaping individual responses to public health crises.

Photo: J.J. Gouin, Shutterstock

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