Is The Media Making Matters Worse?


There is no doubt that screen time has increased dramatically since the first Covid-19 lockdown. Studies show average screen time has increased by 60% and some studies even show an 80% jump! Nielsen estimates adults are now absorbing a whopping 13 hours a day in screen time. Could the media be increasing severe outcomes from Covid-19?

Well, the idea that media could be a major contributor to severe Covid-19 outcomes might sound far fetched, however, studies suggest otherwise. Let’s start with CDC’s own numbers. They indicate that the relative risk of death was 28% higher with anxiety and fear-related disorders. That’s 2% higher than those with diabetes!

Okay, so what does media have to do with anxiety? For starters there is already a noted correlation between the amount of screen time and emotional well-being. For example, studies of adolescents found that even with a supposedly moderate amount of screen time, about 4 hours a day, adolescents had lower well-being. In fact adolescents with 7 or more hours a day were about twice as likely to be depressed and anxious. This almost certainly applies to adults as well.

The type of media we ingest is also a contributing factor can even lead to depression and anxiety. A study published in 1997 demonstrated that watching just 14 minutes of a negative news story has a statistically significant impact on our thinking. The study showed that those who watched just 14 minutes of negative news were nearly twice as likely to experience anxiety as a result. What if I watch neutral or positive news? The study showed that this made little impact though as mentioned earlier, less screen time is always better. Additionally, I think we can all agree that the news media has been overwhelmingly negative. Especially as it pertains to Covid-19. As anecdotal evidence of the impact media has, even with the extremely low risk to most age groups and any moderately healthy person, some people have displayed complete freak outs on social media after testing positive for Covid-19.

Could this really make a difference in terms of our physical health? Well, an article published by Harvard cites numerous studies showing negativity has a significant impact on our health. One study they cite showed an 80% increase in risk of death over a nine-year period due to a negative outlook.
You tell me, is the media making matters worse?

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