TORONTO — A study series led by Dutch researchers has found that avoiding news during the pandemic was correlated with better mental well-being among participants in the Netherlands.

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The study’s findings were published in “Avoiding news during the Covid-19 crisis: Understanding information overload,”. magazine digital journalism Back in August.

In the first study, researchers conducted online panel surveys involving 1,635 participants in the Netherlands. Researchers asked participants whether they felt that news about COVID-19 made them feel powerless, emotionally charged, overloaded with information, and negatively affected their mental well-being.

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The participants were asked the same questions at three different intervals during the first four months of the pandemic. The first wave of the survey was conducted in April 2020, three weeks after the initial lockdown in the Netherlands. The second wave was followed by the reopening of primary schools in May 2020. In June, when public buildings and restaurants reopened, researchers completed a third wave.

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At the same time, researchers conducted a second study involving 1,742 different participants. Participants were asked whether they avoided news or consumed more news since the start of the pandemic. In addition, the researchers asked the participants how often they felt nervous, calm, sad, and happy over the past four weeks. As in the first study, participants in the second study were asked the same question over three different time periods.

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Researchers found that there was a positive association with news avoidance and mental well-being. People who avoid the news more are more likely to see improvements in their general health.

“This finding suggests that people who choose to avoid the news to protect their mental well-being may be making the right choices,” the authors wrote.

At the start of the pandemic, participants said they increased their news consumption and also turned to a greater variety of news sources. However, as the pandemic continued, the avoidance of the news began to grow.

Feelings of powerlessness as well as information overload were cited as the most common reasons to avoid the news. In addition, young adults were more likely to avoid the news, the researchers found.

“When people feel emotionally charged, have lost faith in the news media, feel the need to ignore the news, and feel overloaded, they are more likely to avoid news in the later period,” the authors wrote. Wrote.

However, the studies are not without their limitations. The data only covered the first four months of the pandemic and cannot speak to how news avoidance and mental health have evolved. Furthermore, the study focused on only one country, the Netherlands, which had fewer COVID-19 lockdown measures than many of its European neighbors and compared to other countries.

Still, the researchers say the findings may provide insight into how the onslaught of pandemic-related news affects mental health and why people may choose to avoid consuming news.

The authors wrote, “These findings point to an acting balance for individual news consumers. In a pandemic like COVID-19 news, consumers need to be informed, but sometimes avoiding news to stay mentally healthy. is necessary.”

Similar studies published recently also found that doomscrolling COVID-19 news can have negative emotional consequences. In addition, more Canadians are reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression than ever before amid the pandemic.