Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Mass Communication and Media Arts

First Advisor

Veenstra, Aaron

Second Advisor

McClurg, Scott


Health misinformation is prevailing on Chinese social media like WeChat – a multi-functional social networking infrastructure in China – and it affects people’s choice and food and health care, which then influences people's health and sometimes cause panic. Many literatures have focused on health misinformation related to pandemic, vaccines or emergent diseases. However, few of them studies daily lifestyle related misinformation on social media. Also, many literatures suggest that aging plays a role in increased vulnerability to misinformation, but few discuss about it in the context of daily lifestyle related misinformation. In this study, an online survey (N=1,141) was conducted to study people’s susceptibility to daily lifestyle related health misinformation on WeChat, and the associated factors from the perspectives of misinformation topics, health belief, cultural belief, social networks and media. The results indicate that perceived severity and benefits increases people’s susceptibility to health misinformation. Alliance of people’s pre-existing belief with the underlying construct of the misinformation also increases their susceptibility to health misinformation. Additionally, lower rating of self-reported health status also plays a role in such susceptibility. Yet, in the contrast to existing literature, this study finds that self-efficacy has no effect on assisting people in identifying health misinformation. Regarding health information sharing, people tend to share what they consider credible but with different motivations to WeChat connections in different social settings. In a relatively more semi-public platform (WeChat Moments) with generalized social connections, they are motivated by the goal of sharing useful information and maintaining social relationships. Yet, in relatively more private settings like individual chat or group chat, they are motivated by altruism when sharing with strong ties while by maintaining social relationships when sharing with weak ties. The results also reveal that the increase in age increases the frequency of health information sharing behavior. In addition to the survey, I conducted a follow up interview with 30 participants of different age groups to explore how people access, process and share health information on WeChat. The interview contains a think-aloud protocol that can detect the criteria people employ to evaluate health mis/information on WeChat. Building on Elaborative Likelihood Model of Persuasion, the interview results reveal that in addition to relevance of topic and ability to process the mis/information, time constraints also contribute to which route people take on when processing information, especially with busy daily schedules and overwhelming amount of available health information on WeChat. When taking on the peripheral route, besides author credibility, older and younger generations use different peripheral cues to process health mis/information, and employ different criteria in evaluating the quality.




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