The Effects of News Framing and Issue Attribution on Chinese College Students’ Responses to Depression Coverage

Yan Jin, Yuan Zhang, Yen-I Lee, and Yunbing Tang. “The Effects of News Framing and Issue Attribution on Chinese College Students’ Responses to Depression Coverage.” Accepted for presentation at the Annual Conference of International Communication Association, Fukuoka, Japan, June 9-13, 2016

Abstract: Depression is now one of the most severe public health threats in China and among Chinese college students. To examine the role of depression news coverage and address barriers in communicating with Chinese college students about the risk of depression and the importance of providing social support to depressed individuals, a 2 (episodic vs. thematic framing) x 2 (individual vs. societal attribution) between-subjects experiment was conducted among 187 students in a large research university in China. The findings provide insights that can inform future depression news coverage in Chinese media: 1) Episodic framing in depression coverage triggered more sympathetic feelings toward depressed individuals; 2) Individual attribution in depression coverage led to higher self-efficacy in detecting people’s depression symptoms; and 3) Female participants felt more sympathy toward depressed individuals depicted in the new story regardless the framing or attribution. The findings shed light on the important role news framing and attribution play in influencing Chinese college students’ perception, attitude, and supportive behavior regarding depressed individuals in Chinese society.  Implications for health reporters and health communication professionals in China are discussed.

Yan Jin  Yen-I Lee 

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