Communication of Risk in Covid-19: An Urgent Need for Clarity

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented spotlight on health risks. This article discusses how such risks have been communicated to the public, arguing the approaches used may have inflated perceptions of risk amongst younger and disease-free individuals. This has led to undue anxiety and had a deleterious effect on other health behaviours, including sleep and exercise. We advise that more conventional public health messaging approaches would have been useful-deploying clear, non-jargon language, keeping advice consistent and presenting a combination of absolute health risks and comparisons with other everyday risks. This may have facilitated more accurate understanding of risk levels in different population segments. The evidence-base on effective ways to communicate to encourage health-seeking behaviour change–such as emphasizing the benefits of compliance to recommendations rather than the risks of non-compliance and highlighting the social impacts of Covid-19 preventative measures–must be more effectively leveraged in future to support risk mitigation efforts and implementation of vaccines during their forthcoming rollout.

S Attwood, C Hajat – 2021
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