Publication date: Apr 21, 2020
During the COVID-19 pandemic, governments issued movement restrictions and placed areas into quarantine to combat the spread of the disease. In addition, individuals were encouraged to adopt personal health measures, such as social isolation. Information regarding the disease and measures were distributed through a variety of channels including social media, news websites and emails. Previous research suggests that the vast amount of available information can be confusing, potentially resulting in over-concern and information overload.
We investigate the impact of online information on individual-level intention to voluntarily self-isolate during the pandemic. Using the protection-motivation theory as a framework, we propose a model outlining the effect of cyberchondria and information overload on individuals’ perceptions and motivation.
To test the proposed model, we collected data with an online survey (N=225) and analysed it using partial least square-structural equation modelling (PLS-SEM). The effects of social media and living situation were tested through multi-group analysis (PLS-MGA).
Cyberchondria and information overload had a significant impact on individuals’ threat and coping perceptions, and through them on self-isolation intention. Among the appraisal constructs, perceived severity (P=0.002) and self-efficacy (P=0.003) positively impacted self-isolation intention while response cost (P0.05).
During COVID-19, frequent use of social media contributed to information overload and over concern among individuals. In addition, to boost individuals’ motivation to adopt preventive measures such as self-isolation, actions should focus on lowering individuals’ perceived response costs in addition to informing them about the severity of the situation.