Fear of Zika: Information Seeking as Cause and Consequence

James Price Dillard, Ruobing Li, Chun Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


This study examined the relationship between information seeking and fear during the Zika-induced global health crisis. A longitudinal survey of women in the Southern U.S. (N = 306) was conducted in 2016, beginning just days after the World Health Organization declared Zika a global crisis. The data showed that time 1 fear stimulated information seeking at time 2 and that time 2 information seeking caused fear at time 3. This pattern held regardless of whether participants were pregnant or planning to become pregnant (high personal relevance) versus neither (low personal relevance). The findings are at odds with most theories of fear appeals and only partially supportive of contemporary models of information seeking. From an applied standpoint, the results suggest (a) that information seeking should not be assumed to produce uniformly attractive outcomes and (b) that, during a disease crisis, health agencies should anticipate proactive behaviors by members of the public and plan accordingly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1785-1795
Number of pages11
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number13
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication


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