Media coverage of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has played a critical role throughout the pandemic: sharing news about the novel virus, policies and practices to mitigate it, and the race to create and distribute vaccines. The media coverage, however, has been critiqued as stigmatizing. Although this critique is not new, there is limited understanding of how and why new stigmas emerge from exposure to media coverage. Drawing upon the model of stigma communication (Smith et al., 2019) and the attribution model of stigma (Corrigan et al., 2003), we investigated a novel model of stigma emergence that delineates two kinds of longitudinal processes: (a) a message-effects process, in which exposure to mediated messages about COVID-19 leads to public stigma through danger appraisal and (b) a coping process in which stress and rumination shape later perceptions of public stigma. To test the model, we tracked an emerging COVID-19 stigma with a two-wave survey of a prospective, longitudinal cohort living in one county in a mid-Atlantic state (N = 883). The results supported this model. The longitudinal processes of stigma emergence and implications for COVID-19 stigma are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalStigma and Health
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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