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【Individualism, economic development, and democracy as determinants of COVID-19 risk information on 132 government websites】


Little is known about how governments transparently communicate about COVID-19. This study conducted a content analysis of 132 government COVID-19 websites to identify the salience of health messages (i.e., perceived threat, perceived efficacy, and perceived resilience) and cross-national determinants of information provision. Multinomial logistic regression was used to estimate the relationship between country-level predictors (i.e., economic development, democracy scores, and individualism index) and information salience. The numbers of deaths, discharged patients, and daily new cases were prevalent on the main webpages. Subpages provided information about vulnerability statistics, government responses, and vaccination rates. Less than 10% of governments included messages that may instill self-efficacy. Democratic countries had higher chances of providing threat statistics on subpages, including daily new cases (Relative Risk Ratio, RRR = 1.66, 95% CI: 1.16–2.37), mortalities (RRR = 1.69, 95% CI: 1.23–2.33), hospitalizations (RRR = 1.63, 95% CI: 1.12–2.37), and positivity rates (RRR = 1.55, 95% CI: 1.07–2.23). On subpages, democratic governments emphasized information about perceived vulnerability (RRR = 2.36, 95% CI: 1.50–3.73), perceived response efficacy (RRR = 1.48, 95% CI: 1.06–2.06), recovery numbers (RRR = 1.84, 95% CI: 1.31–2.60), and vaccinations (RRR = 2.14, 95% CI: 1.39–3.30). Developed countries reported the number of daily new cases, perceived response efficacy, and vaccination rates on their COVID-19 main pages. Individualism scores predicted the salience of vaccination rates on main pages and the omission of information related to perceived severity and perceived vulnerability. Democracy levels were more predictive of reporting information about perceived severity, perceived response efficacy, and perceived resilience on subpages of dedicated websites. Improving public health agencies’ communication about COVID-19 is warranted.

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