The “celebrity canary in the coal mine for the coronavirus”: An examination of a theoretical model of celebrity illness disclosure effects

Jessica Gall Myrick, Jessica Fitts Willoughby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Rationale: On March 11, 2020, actor Tom Hanks announced via social media that he had been diagnosed with COVID-19. Previous research has found celebrity illness disclosures to influence behavior, but during the uncertainty of a pandemic, the effects of such a disclosure were unclear. Objective: To test the proposed Celebrity Illness Disclosure Effects (CIDE) model, demonstrating how an illness disclosure, communicated through mediated and interpersonal channels, may shape willingness to engage in prevention behaviors. Methods: We conducted an online survey (N = 587) 24 hours after Hanks’ COVID-19 disclosure. Results: Findings revealed that celebrity-related perception variables predicted illness-related cognitions and emotions\, which were associated with willingness to enact prevention behaviors. Greater willingness to seek information, stronger perceptions of COVID as a threat, and stronger perceptions of efficacy for dealing with COVID after learning of Hanks’ diagnosis predicted stronger willingness to enact prevention behaviors. However, anxiety about COVID predicted lower willingness to enact prevention behaviors. Conclusions: The CIDE model can serve as a guide for future research in this area. The results can help scholars who aim to better understand the phenomena around celebrities and health communication as well as policymakers who hope to ride the wave of star power to improved public health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number113963
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume279
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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