Fear Messaging in a Global Pandemic

By | 24th April 2024

We consider the UK Independent Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours’ (SPI-B) support for fear messaging during the global COVID-19 pandemic, evaluate the consequences and make recommendations for the future. Using evidence from published documents, we show that SPI-B supported the use of fear messaging during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is inconsistent with the extant psychological literature and contrary to the disaster planning literature. The recommendations regarding fear messaging may have had harmful ramifications and impacts, especially for young people. We recommend that a wider multidisciplinary expertise is employed to deal effectively, ethically and holistically with future crises. Plans for future pandemics must include meaningful engagement with the public, particularly children and young people.

The Three Rs of Fear Messaging in a Global Pandemic: Recommendations, Ramifications and Remediation
Laura Dodsworth | Gemma Ahearne | Robert Dingwall | Lucy Easthope | Michael Riordan | Ellen Townsend

Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 2024; 31:e2972

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