Behavioral consequences of conflict-oriented health news coverage: the 2009 mammography guideline controversy and online information seeking

Health Commun. 2012;27(2):158-66. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2011.571757. Epub 2011 Aug 8.


Building on channel complementarity theory and media-system dependency theory, this study explores the impact of conflict-oriented news coverage of health issues on information seeking online. Using Google search data as a measure of behavior, we demonstrate that controversial news coverage of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force's November 2009 recommendations for changes in breast cancer screening guidelines strongly predicted the volume of same-day online searches for information about mammograms. We also found that this relationship did not exist 1 year prior to the coverage, during which mammography news coverage did not focus on the guideline controversy, suggesting that the controversy frame may have driven search behavior. We discuss the implications of these results for health communication scholars and practitioners.

MeSH terms

  • Advisory Committees
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Least-Squares Analysis
  • Mammography*
  • Mass Media*
  • Mass Screening*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Preventive Health Services
  • United States