Giving Compass' Take:

•  Seeking out news and media coverage about coronavirus can lead individuals to experience mental health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

• How can individuals with mental health issues or risks practice avoiding media coverage? How else does the media impact communities during this time? 

•  Read how you can help isolated older adults during COVID-19. 

While government officials and news organizations work to communicate critical risk assessments and recommendations to the public during the coronavirus crisis, researchers say a related threat may emerge, psychological distress.

“It’s a public health paradox that has been identified during and in the aftermath of other collective stressors, such as the 2014 Ebola outbreak,” says Roxane Cohen Silver, professor of psychological science at the University of California, Irvine.

Silver and colleagues describe how media exposure during a shared trauma can amplify negative public health consequences in a paper in Health Psychology.

Earlier longitudinal studies the team conducted after the 9/11 attacks, the Boston Marathon bombings, and the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa showed that repeated high levels of media consumption and graphic content led to heightened anxiety during and in the immediate aftermath of threatening events.

This elevated emotional response associated with adverse physical and mental health outcomes, including cardiovascular disorders, post-traumatic stress, and fear of the future.

Beyond these physical and psychological effects, an influx of concerned patients and critical shortages of resources, such as face masks and respirators that may not get to those most at risk can overburden health care facilities.

Read the full article about mental health during COVID-19 by Pat Harriman at Futurity.