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How the media may be making the COVID-19 mental health epidemic worse

Watching too much COVID-19 coverage can make your fear and worry even worse. seb_ra via Getty Images

How the media may be making the COVID-19 mental health epidemic worse

Watching too much COVID-19 coverage can make your fear and worry even worse. seb_ra via Getty Images

How the media may be making the COVID-19 mental health epidemic worse

Watching too much COVID-19 coverage can make your fear and worry even worse. seb_ra via Getty Images

How the media may be making the COVID-19 mental health epidemic worse

Watching too much COVID-19 coverage can make your fear and worry even worse. seb_ra via Getty Images

Constantly watching and reading news about COVID-19 may be hazardous for your mental health.

J. Brian Houston, University of Missouri-Columbia and Jennifer M. First, University of Tennessee

Since the pandemic began, anxiety rates in the U.S. have tripled; the rate of depression has quadrupled. Now research is suggesting the media is part of the problem. Constantly watching and reading news about COVID-19 may be hazardous for your mental health.

We are professors who study the psychological effects on people caught up in crisis, violence and natural disasters. COVID-19 surely qualifies as a crisis, and our survey of more than 1,500 U.S. adults clearly showed that those experiencing the most media exposure about the pandemic had more stress and depression.

It’s understandable. The intimations of death and suffering, and the images of overwhelmed hospitals and intubated patients can be terrifying. COVID-19 has created an infodemic; members of the public are overwhelmed with more information than they can manage. And much of that information, especially online, includes disturbing rumors, conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated statements that confuse, mislead and frighten.

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