1. In this cross-sectional study, those who spent the most time engaging in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) content reported increased anxiety and depressive symptoms.
2. Discussing COVID-19 with peers and viewing COVID-19 information on social media had no social benefits for participants.
Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a central topic of news, discussion, and social media content since it was classified as a pandemic in March of 2020. COVID-19 content can be frightening, cause social discourse, and be disheartening. Additionally, many individuals have strong negative emotions associated with COVID-19 due to history of being infected, affected family members, and lost income. Prolonged social exposure to pandemic information may negatively impact mood and mental wellbeing.
The present cross-sectional study surveyed adults on their mental health as well as their engagement with social media content and peer discussions focused on COVID-19. Adults who use Facebook and/or Instagram were recruited, with no exclusion criteria specified. Demographic variables, social media usage, and co-rumination on COVID-19 with peers were measured for each participant. Outcomes were assessed via the Center of Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale (CES-D), State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), Health Anxiety Inventory (HAI), and UCLA Loneliness Scale (ULS).
A total of 345 participants completed the survey, of which most were women (81%), from the United States (91%), and Caucasian (87%), with a mean income of $91,327. Co-ruminating with peers about COVID-19 and time spent on social media engaging in COVID-19 content were both significantly associated with increased health anxiety, state anxiety, and depressive symptoms. Furthermore, both interactions did not confer social benefits (in the context of social distancing). However, this study was limited due to the homogenous study population and small sample size which could limit the generalizability of the results. In summary, continued social focus on COVID-19 may be detrimental to psychological wellbeing.
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