The World Health Organisation has emphasised that misinformation – spreading rapidly through social media – poses a serious threat to the COVID-19 response. Drawing from theories of health perception and cognitive load, we develop and test a research model hypothesising why people share unverified COVID-19 information through social media.
Our findings suggest a person’s trust in online information and perceived information overload are strong predictors of unverified information sharing. Furthermore, these factors, along with a person’s perceived COVID-19 severity and vulnerability influence cyberchondria. Females were significantly more likely to suffer from cyberchondria, with males more likely to share news without verifying its reliability.
Our findings suggest that to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 misinformation and cyberchondria, measures should be taken to enhance a healthy scepticism of health news while simultaneously guarding against information overload.
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Samuli Laato, A. K. M. Najmul Islam, Muhammad Nazrul Islam & Eoin Whelan (2020) What drives unverified information sharing and cyberchondria during the COVID-19 pandemic?, European Journal of Information Systems, 29:3, 288-305, DOI: 10.1080/0960085X.2020.1770632