Comparing Frequency of Online News Coverage, Worldwide Mortality and Perceived Risk of Leading Diseases and Injuries: Challenging paradigms in the new media landscape

Mass media are a leading source of health information for the public. Based on the theory of agenda setting, the media influence what users consider important with respect to health and disease. This study examines the frequency of health issues covered by major national online media outlets, worldwide mortality and the public’s perception of risk. Frequency of media coverage was found to be correlated with both worldwide mortality and with perceived personal and societal risks for specific diseases and injuries. This suggests that online media news coverage is in line with the public’s agenda with respect to health risk, and further corresponds to global mortality. Results also show that for all causes of death, the public’s perception of risk to self is significantly lower than the perceived risk to society. Study limitations and implications are discussed.