Longitudinal Study of an Emerging COVID-19 Stigma: Media Exposure, Danger Appraisal, and Stress

Rachel A. Smith, Xun Zhu, Molly A. Martin, Jessica G. Myrick, Robert P. Lennon, Meg L. Small, Lauren J.Van Scoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


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
Pages (from-to)12-20
Number of pages9
JournalStigma and Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 21 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the members of the D4A Action Research Group: Dee Bagshaw, Clinical & Translational Science Institute, Nita Bharti, Dept. of Biology and the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, Cyndi Flanagan, Clinical Research Center, Matthew Ferrari, Dept. of Biology & Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, Thomas Gates, Social Science Research Institute, Margeaux Gray, Dept. of Biobehavioral Health, Suresh Kuchipudi, Animal Diagnostic Lab, Vivek Kapur, Dept. of Animal Science and the Huck Institutes of Life Sciences, Stephanie Lanza, Dept. of Biobehavioral Health and the Prevention Research Center, James Marden, Dept. of Biology & Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, Susan McHale, Dept. of Human Development and Family Studies and the Social Science Research Institute, Glenda Palmer, Social Science Research Institute, Andrew Read, Depts. of Biology and Entomology, and the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, Connie Rogers, Dept. of Nutritional Sciences and the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, Meg Small, College of Health and Human Development, and Charima Young, The Penn State Office of Government and Community Relations. Members of the Data4Action Research Group include leaders in each funding source. Those leaders participated in developing the project concept and methodologies and study design. They were not involved in analysis, interpretation of the data, initial writing, or the decision to submit the report for publication. Data4Action Research Group is supported by the Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute, Huck Institute of the Life Sciences, Clinical and Translational Science Institute, Clinical Research Center and the Office of the Provost.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Psychological Association


  • COVID-19
  • danger appraisal
  • media effects
  • public stigma
  • stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Longitudinal Study of an Emerging COVID-19 Stigma: Media Exposure, Danger Appraisal, and Stress'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this