Psychiatric Quarterly

, Volume 58, Issue 4, pp 269–278 | Cite as

The influence of newspaper reports on outbreaks of mass hysteria

  • Gary W. Small
  • Jonathan F. Borus


A previous study suggested that newspaper reports contributed to the generation and propagation of a recent epidemic of “mysterious gas poisoning” among Arab schoolgirls. To further explore the role of the press in mass hysteria, the authors reviewed newspaper reports related to two separate outbreaks of hysteria among schoolchildren. Despite extensive coverage of both epidemics, only one questionably related new outbreak and no relapses of illness in the original settings occurred following these reports. The variable influence the media may have on mass hysteria and the multitude of other factors that can affect such outbreaks are discussed.


Public Health Original Setting Variable Influence Newspaper Report Extensive Coverage 
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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gary W. Small
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Jonathan F. Borus
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.From the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the University of CaliforniaLos Angeles
  2. 2.the Department of PsychiatryMassachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical SchoolUSA
  3. 3.the Harvard Program in Psychiatric EpidemiologyBoston

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