Tongtong Wu

News Impacting Anxiety, Depression and Empathy During the COVID-19 Pandemic

April 5, 2021   /  

Name:Tongtong Wu
Major: Psychology
Minor: Latin American Studies
Advisors: Michelle Colvin (Advisor), Grit Herzmann (Second reader)

The COVID-19 pandemic has been disastrous to many individuals’ daily lives, and to keep themselves informed during the pandemic, they have relied on reading news. Different types of news reports about COVID-19 impact how people perceive the ongoing situation. Positive news gives readers optimism, whereas negative news leads them to feel anxious and depressed about the pandemic situation, as well as to feel more empathetic towards. This study investigated the role of types of news reporting on individuals’ anxiety, depression and empathy levels. Participants read four news articles that were either manipulated by the type of news reporting (positive vs. negative) and geographical proximity (international vs. national). Individuals (N= 90)living in the US above the age of 18 volunteered to participate in the study, and 25 incomplete responses were excluded. Before reading the news articles, participants showed moderate-to-severe level of anxiety (M= 3.78, SD= 0.57) and moderate level of depression (M= 3.48, SD= 1.29). Anxiety levels after reading news were higher for participants who were assigned to the positive news group than those that were assigned to the negative news group. Participants showed higher levels of anxiety and empathy following international events than national events. They did not show any significant difference for depression despite manipulating the type of news reporting and geographical proximity. This study has shown that the pandemic has impacted individuals’ mental well-being drastically while seeing others struggling physically and financially.

Keywords: anxiety, depression, empathy, social representation, news media

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