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#mentalhealth : The effect of influencer messages on burnout self-diagnosis and the intention to act

Hebben, Laura (2019) #mentalhealth : The effect of influencer messages on burnout self-diagnosis and the intention to act.

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Abstract:Mental illnesses are one of the most common health issues today. As the awareness for mental health is increasing, the ways people communicate about it and seek information about it, have changed drastically as well. With the rise of the Internet, health information has become available online and help seeking and diagnosis have partly shifted to the online environment as well, as people increasingly seek information themselves, without consulting a professional first. However, to date, there is still limited research into how mental health messages on social media are perceived are and whether the message characteristics affect how the message recipient perceives his or her own health situation. The current study aimed to fill this gap. In a 2x2x2 experimental between-subject design, 245 participants (age M = 25.55, highly educated, frequent Instagram users) from 48 countries were selected through convenience and snowball sampling and were exposed to a fictitious Instagram post that was manipulated based on burnout message characteristics, namely directness of the burnout description, the situational context (personal vs. factual) and the presence of a call to action. Liking and credibility attitudes and identification with the fictitious influencer were considered as mediators, while trust in Instagram operated as a covariate. After being exposed to the research stimuli, the participants reported about the measures in an online questionnaire to investigate to what extent the message characteristics would influence self-diagnosis and the intention to act. A multivariate analysis of covariance revealed that self-diagnosis and the intention to act were not influenced by the message characteristics directly. However, an interaction effect of situational context and the call to action was revealed. Additionally, significant effects were discovered of the attitudes towards the message (liking and credibility) and identification, on self-diagnosis and the intention to act. Furthermore, trust in Instagram had a strong effect on the outcome variables as well. This study contributed specific insights into how influencers should communicate about mental health and how this communication affects the audience’s behaviour, and it revealed relations between self-diagnosis and the intention to act, and the attitudes towards the message and the source Instagram, as well as identification. Future research might explore these findings in more depth.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:05 communication studies
Programme:Communication Studies MSc (60713)
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