Is Fear Friend or Foe for Healthcare Communications?

Healthcare Communications

There is an increasing argument for using fear in healthcare communications, with the most effective healthcare initiatives using the emotion to provoke a stronger response from the public.

Anti-smoking advertisements have frequently included unpleasant visuals, but as a result, the number of smokers has decreased.

“Are cases where it is obvious that fear is a vital component in healthcare communications?“

The "It's never just HIV" effort was criticised for stereotyping under-represented communities as HIV levels started to rise during the 2010s. However, it was also lauded for reducing the common theme of HIV passivity that had developed as a result of more effective treatment options becoming available.

When used to highlight issues before it is viewed as a real problem, the method of using fear falters. People all too frequently adopt the attitude that they can simply 'deal with it later'.

Another consideration is how often this method is enlisted. If it happens too frequently, the expectation for it to happen removes its power for inciting change.

Furthermore, it helps if the public already has an element of fear and perceives the authority as having the power to cause real concern. For example, Fear was prevalent at the start of the Covid 19 pandemic, and in the UK the public had a relatively high level of confidence in the government.

But if you compare that to today, individuals have a high level of mistrust in the administration, media, and commerce regardless of their political standpoint.

Overall, it can be concluded that positive communications are favoured over fear, for example encouraging individuals to go to the gym, but there are cases where it is obvious that fear is a vital component in healthcare communications.

And finally, will governments ever rebuild their reputations to a point at which they have that kind of emotional influence over us?

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