Consuming too much bad news from doomscrolling can lead to worse physical and mental health, according to a new study

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  • One study suggested that consuming too much bad news, or reeling from situations, can worsen mental and physical health.

  • Surveying 1,100 US adults, the study found that 16.5% had “severely problematic” news consumption.

  • Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the practice of doomscrolling has taken off and become a popular term.

Tuning in to bad news isn’t always easy when it seems to be everywhere, but a new study has shown that consuming too much can worsen mental and physical health.

The study of 1,100 US adults said 16.5% of respondents had a “severely problematic” habit of consuming bad news. The results, published in the August issue of the journal Health Communication, further showed that people who consumed more bad news had “greater mental and physical illness” compared to people who did not consume as much bad news. Examples of “disease” in the study are anxiety, stress, and depression — all of which were self-reported in the survey.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the endless scrolling of bad news has become more common. The practice eventually became known as “doomscrolling” or “doomsurfing”, due to the flood of negative and distressing news.

“We argue that, for some Americans, seeing these events unfold in the news may induce a constant state of heightened alertness, driving their motivation to watch as the world becomes a dark and dangerous place,” the study authors said. The research, conducted in August 2021, was conducted by Bryan McLaughlin, Melissa Gotlieb and Devin Mills of Texas Tech University.

Even further, for some people “a vicious cycle may develop in which, instead of tuning in, they drift further, obsessing over the news and checking for updates around the clock to alleviate their emotional distress,” the authors said.

The highest percentages of respondents did not have “severely problematic” news consumption, with 27.3% “moderately problematic”, 27.5% “slightly problematic” and 28.7% “not problematic” .

The study did not specify how much time spent reading or watching news determined how “problematic” a participant’s behavior was, but the measures respondents rated were: news absorption, frequent thinking about news, reading and watching the news to reduce stress, difficulty not reading or watching the news, and not being able to focus on school or work because of focusing on the news.

For those with “moderately problematic news consumption,” the study suggested they have “greater mental illness than those with minimal or no problematic news consumption and greater physical illness than those with minimally problematic news consumption.”

Among people with “minimally problematic” and “non-problematic” news consumption habits, the study showed that there was no significant difference between mental and physical illness.

“This suggests that being somewhat absorbed in a dangerous world is not problematic for mental and physical health unless it is accompanied by being trapped in that world with no way out,” the study authors said.

The study’s authors said the study’s results show “significant implications” for the well-being of people, society and democracy.

“These findings indicate the need for media literacy campaigns that focus on raising awareness of the potential for news consumption to develop into problem behavior, as well as the need to develop intervention strategies,” the authors said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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