ArticlePDF Available

Negative psychological effects of watching the news in the television: Relaxation or another intervention may be needed to buffer them!

  • ELTE Eötvös Loránd University Budapest Hungary

Abstract and Figures

The psychological effects of televised news were studied in 2 groups (n = 179) of undergraduate students who watched a 15-min random newscast followed by either a 15-min progressive relaxation exercise or a 15-min lecture (control condition). Subjective measures of state anxiety, total mood disturbance (TMD), positive affect, and negative affect were obtained before and after the news, as well as following relaxation exercise or the lecture. The results show that state anxiety and TMD increased, whereas positive affect decreased in both groups after watching the news and 15 min later they returned to baseline (pre-news) only in the relaxation group, whereas they remained unchanged in the control group. These findings demonstrate that watching the news on television triggers persisting negative psychological feelings that could not be buffered by attention-diverting distraction (i.e., lecture), but only by a directed psychological intervention such as progressive relaxation.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Psychological effects of newscasts
Running title: Psychological effects of television newscasts
Negative psychological effects of watching the news in
the television: Relaxation or another intervention may
be needed to buffer them!
Attila Szabo* and Katey L. Hopkinson
Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, United Kingdom
This is a pre-publication version of the article:
Szabo, A., & Hopkinson, K. L. (2007). Negative psychological effects of watching the
news in the television: Relaxation or another intervention may be needed to buffer
them! International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 14(2), 57-62.
Corresponding author's current address:
dr. habil. Attila Szabo, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Institute of Health Promotion and
Sport Sciences, Faculty of Education and Psychology, Eötvös Loránd University,
1117 Budapest, Bogdánfy u. 10, Hungary. E-mail: and
Psychological effects of newscasts
The psychological effects of televised news were studied in two groups (n=179) of
undergraduate students who watched a 15-minute random newscast followed by either
a 15-minute progressive relaxation exercise or a 15-minute lecture (control condition).
Subjective measures of state anxiety, total mood disturbance (TMD), positive affect,
and negative affect were obtained before and after the news as well as following
relaxation exercise or the lecture. The results showed that state anxiety and TMD
increased, whereas positive affect decreased in both groups after watching the news
and 15 minutes later they returned to baseline (pre-news) only in the relaxation group
whilst remaining unchanged in the control group. These findings demonstrate that
watching the news in the television triggers persisting negative psychological feelings
that could not be buffered by attention-diverting distraction (i.e., lecture), but only by
a directed psychological intervention such as progressive relaxation.
Key words: Anxiety, Mood, Newscast, Relaxation, Television
Although television newscast is the most important news medium (Hargreaves
& Thomas, 2002), only a limited number of studies have examined the psychological
impact of watching the news. It appears that the majority of news is negatively biased,
unless of course we live in a “bad world”. For example, Haskins, Miller and Quarles
(1984) reported that 60% of television news content could be considered as bad news
in contrast to 22% of it that could be considered as good news in light of their analysis
over a period of three months in the United States. Similarly, Stone and Grusin (1984)
analysed one week’s worth of randomly sampled news on three major commercial
American television channels (ABC, CBS, and NBC) over a 20-day sample period.
Across all three channels there were significantly higher numbers of bad news than
good news with 47% of all stories covered are being classified as bad news.
In addition to the amount of bad news, Johnson (1996) investigated the type of
news broadcasted on four television channels over a 6-month period. One hundred
news broadcasts were monitored in light of 5 categories of bad news that represented
various aspects of violence, conflict, and suffering (VCS); violent crime, tragedy and
suffering; conflict and discord; social and collective protests involving violence or
threats of violence; and war and military affairs. Overall on the four stations slightly
more than half (53.4%) of all stories depicted various forms of VCS, together with
54.5% of the total time being devoted to VCS. Further research on VCS has shown
that two thirds of total news began with a VCS story while 64% of the first five stories
covered some form of VCS (Stone & Grusin, 1984). Johnson (1996) also found
differences in local and national news broadcasts in the type of bad news coverage.
Local news focused more on crime whereas national news tended to focus more on
stories of war and protests.
In light of abundant negative newscasts in the television it appears important
to examine the psychological effects on the viewers. Unfortunately, limited research
has been done to examine the role of television news on the affective responses of the
viewers (Harrell, 2000). The term unfortunate is justified by the fact that television is
the primary source of news (Roper Starch, 1995) and that people may watch an
Psychological effects of newscasts
average of three hours of newscast weekly (Anderson, Collins, Schmitt, & Jacobvitz,
1996). The limited research performed in this area shows clearly that watching
televised news has negative impact on people’s affect. For example, using a phone
interview method Galician (1986) studied viewers’ perception of good and bad news.
The results of the study showed that three out of four respondents believed that
television newscasts are overwhelmed by bad news that was considered depressing by
94% of participants. About one third of the respondents thought that bad news has
undesirable effects on viewers and 59% believed that newscasts tends to make things
worse than they really are. Such results warranted the more systematic investigation
of the psychological effects of exposure to negative or bad news in the television.
A systematic investigation conducted by Potts and Sanchez (1994) showed
that depression was associated with intensified negative feelings after viewing news
broadcasts in the television. Similarly, Johnston and Davey (1997) using a pre- to
post-viewing within participants research design found that watching a predominantly
negatively biased news programme raised reports of anxiety and sadness that could
subsequently increase one’s emotional response to personal problems. Another, more
recent, systematic inquiry by Harrell (2000) examined the effect of viewing positive
and negative television news viewing on various aspects of mood. Her results showed
that those participants who have viewed negative news items reported significantly
greater increases in anxiety and negative affect along with greater decreases in
positive affect than those participants who viewed the combined or positive news
items. Therefore, it is not surprising that televised reports of exceptionally negative
events like September 11 could lead to symptoms of depression, post-traumatic stress
disorder, and general psychological morbidity in the viewers (Galea et al., 2002).
In light of the meagre but convincing evidence it is clear that exposure to
negative television news broadcast triggers negative affect in the viewers. It is also
factual that, at least in light of American analyses, the majority of television news
broadcasts could be classified as negative. An emerging question, then, addressed in
this study is whether the negative impact of news watching dissipates automatically
over time whilst engaging in other mundane activities (no intervention needed) or
whether one needs to engage in active coping (intervention needed) to overcome the
negative experience. Indeed, if negative affect is carried over, even for a brief period,
into the real life activities of the news viewers it may be the source of the behavioural
vulnerability with possible negative consequences.
Pilot study
Since most information on the content of television newscasts emerged from
American reports, an initial pilot study was performed to examine whether the British
television newscast at the time of study was comparable to the American trend. In this
pilot study, newscasts were recorded from three British terrestrial channels over a
period of ten days. Ten volunteers rated the contents of the news as positive, neutral,
or negative. The analyses of that rating showed that the majority of the British news
content was perceived as negative (59%). Only 20% of the stories in the news were
rated as positive while 21% of the stories in the news were rated as neutral, meaning
that depending on beliefs or values they could be seen either positive or negative. No
major traumatic events occurred in the world at the time of this pilot study.
Psychological effects of newscasts
A convenience sample of 173 undergraduate students enrolled in Sport and
Exercise Psychology module at Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom
was tested. Students’ participation was part of an instructional-research exercise to
which they all have consented. The participants’ mean age was 18.7 (SD = 1.0) years,
ranging from 18 to 24 years and the majority had been males (n=127). The students
were assigned to a relaxation and a lecture group on the bases of the starting letter of
their surnames. Those whose surname began with A to K were selected into a
progressive relaxation group (n = 80) and those whose surname began with J to Z
were assigned to a lecture control group (n = 93). Although the emotional impact of
lectures may vary, a number of scholars investigating acute psychological changes
have used lecturing as a means of control to more potent affect-mediating
interventions, such as exercise for example (e.g., Berger, Owen, & Man, 1993; Don,
1997). Students were explained the protocol, were granted the right to deny consent or
to discontinue their participation at any time, and were informed about grouping only
after watching the news to avoid expectations associated with being selected into the
specific group.
Three questionnaires were used in obtaining four measures of affect. State
anxiety was assessed with Spielberger’s State Anxiety Inventory (SSAI - (Spielberger,
Gorsuch, and Lushene, 1970). An abbreviated version of the Profile of Mood States
(POMS) inventory (Grove and Prapavessis, 1992) was used for obtaining a total mood
disturbance (TMD) score. Finally, a modified 14-item version of the Positive Affect
Negative Affect Scale (PANAS Gauvin and Szabo, 1992) was used in gauging
positive and negative affect.
The newscast presented to the participants was recorded 1-hour prior to testing
from Channel 5. Its first 15 minutes were played back to the participants during the
testing. The contents of the news are illustrated in Table 1. Since a test date was
agreed in advance the experimenters and the participants could not predict the content
of the newscast. Accordingly, the newscast was selected by chance (whatever news
will be broadcasted on the testing day).
The recorded newscast was presented to the participants by using a VHS video
cassette player (VideoPlus+, PDC BC969NI) with images projected on a 2.8 m screen
through a Hitachi (CP X958) digital projector. A Goodmans (Model GPS 350) stereo
audio cassette player was used for playing an audio tape that contained instructions
for a 15-min progressive relaxation.
Participants completed the three questionnaires (SSAI, POMS, and PANAS)
before watching the news and immediately after watching the 15-min newscast.
Subsequently, the relaxation group received tape-recorded instructions accompanied
Insert Table 1 about here
Psychological effects of newscasts
by slow background music for a 15-min bout of progressive relaxation whilst in a
comfortable seated body position. The control group received a 15-min lecture in
basic research methods, using PowerPoint and digital projection, delivered by the first
author. Both groups then completed the three questionnaires for a third time.
Data were analysed with a group by period mixed model multivariate repeated
measures analysis of variance (Schutz & Gessaroli, 1987 - MRM-ANOVA). The four
dependent measures were state anxiety (SA), total mood disturbance (TMD), positive
affect (PA) and negative affect (NA). The three periods of the study, pre and post-
news and post-relaxation or post-control represented the repeated measures. The
MRM-ANOVA yielded a significant group by period interaction (Wilks’ Lambda =
.552, F (8, 164) = 16.64, p < .001). Follow-up univariate tests revealed a statistically
significant group by period interaction for all the four dependent measures: for SA (F
(2, 342 = 56.97, p < .001), for TMD (F (2, 342 = 36.32, p < .001), for PA (F (2, 342 =
41.65, p < .001), and for NA (F (2, 342 = 27.08, p < .001). These interactions are
illustrated in Figures 1-4.
A set of Bonferroni-corrected t-tests were also performed to follow up the
statistically significant interaction effects and to examine whether watching the news
resulted in changes in the four dependent measures in both groups. These tests
revealed that apart from negative affect, in which the changes did not reach the
accepted level of statistical significance (α = .05), changes in negative direction were
equally significant in both groups in all measures (Table 2). Finally, four Bonferroni-
corrected independent t-tests were performed to establish suspected group differences
(as per visual examination of Figures 1-4) in the last sampling period or 15 min after
relaxation and lecture, respectively. These tests showed that the two groups reported
statistically significantly different psychological profiles in this third sampling period
with a more favourable profile reported by the relaxation group (Table 3).
The results of this study show that a random television newscast triggers
increases negative emotions manifested in heightened state anxiety and total mood
disturbance and decreased positive affect. The results in negative affect showed a
similar trend in the same direction but they did not reach the accepted level of
statistical significance. These findings match the limited reports in the literature
(Galician, 1986; Johnston & Davey, 1997; Potts & Sanchez, 1994). Similar to
Harrell’s (2000) report, this research also revealed increased anxiety and decreased
positive affect after watching the news. However, the increases in negative affect,
although a trend was apparent, were not significant, which is in contrast with Harrell’s
results. This discrepancy could be related to methodological differences in the two
research methods whereby in this study a young student population was exposed to an
unedited” random newscast whereas in Harrell’s study participants of a wider age-
range were exposed to edited (negative and positive) newscasts. Indeed, the current
results imply that an unpredictable or random newscast-watching episode has acute
Insert Tables 2 and 3 and Figures 1-4 about here
Psychological effects of newscasts
negative psychological effects. Nevertheless, it is known that the majority of the
average” news is negative, as illustrated by the 59% obtained in the pilot study
associated with this research and also by other reports (i.e., Johnson, 1996).
Therefore, the effects of positive news within a broadcast may not buffer the residual
negative psychological effects of the negative news.
While in a number of cases negative emotions could have an adaptive value in
shaping opinions and prompting action, the everyday person may actively respond
only to a few issues. People’s responses to the bulk of the news my be passive and
contain an element of helplessness (i.e., being against a war but feeling that nothing
could be done). Nevertheless, future studies need to explore individual responses that
go beyond the immediate affective consequences of televised newscasts.
The negative psychological effects of newscasts were anticipated in this study
as per reports from the literature. Consequently the contribution of this study rests
with answering the critical question whether engaging in another activity, based on
the distraction hypothesis (Nolen & Morrow, 1993; Russell et al., 2003), clears the
negative effects of watching the news or whether a directed intervention, such as
relaxation exercises, may be necessary. In the daily life few people engage in
relaxation, meditation, or any other stress management activities after watching the
news. This study, then, demonstrates that anxiety and momentary mood disturbance
do not dissipate with a distraction activity used as control to relaxation intervention in
this research. Indeed, this study demonstrates that engaging in an attention-demanding
or distracting activity (which could be working, reading, other television programme
watching), in this case a lecture does not clear away the ill effects of news watching
for at least 15 minutes.
In contrast to the 15 min lecture session, the psychological measures after the
15 min relaxation exercise have returned to baseline levels. It appears that relaxation
buffers the ill effects of news watching effectively within a period of 15 minutes. It
may be pretentious to prescribe an episode of relaxation after watching a newscast,
but the results of this research demonstrate quite clearly that engaging in an attention
demanding activity is not sufficient to buffer the negative psychological effects. Thus,
distraction is not a method of coping. The persistence of negative psychological states
after watching the news no matter how short it may be (at least 15 minutes in this
study) does disturb the affective state of the individual. This residual negative effect
may in turn affect subsequent activities, social interactions, and overall mood of the
individual. Thus the message of this study is that televised newscasts trigger negative
emotions and some form of active coping may be necessary to overcome them.
Future research needs to explore the duration of the negative residual effects
of the newscasts, since this study was limited to a 15-minute post-news period.
Alternative control and/or coping mechanisms should be also explored because the
emotional influence of the lectures could only be assumed to be neutral. In fact some
lectures may also have an impact on affect. Candidate interventions may be breathing
exercises, listening to music, or watching humour or documentaries. A much wider
segment of the population, as opposed to a student sample, needs to be studied and
cross cultural research is highly recommended. Studies in this area are important
because this research clearly suggests that unless specific or directed coping is
introduced the negative effects of television newscast may not be limited to the
immediate post-watching period, but they could expend into the subsequent periods
and daily activities of the individuals.
Psychological effects of newscasts
Anderson, D. R., Collins, P. A., Schmitt, K. L., & Jacobvitz, R. S. (1996).
Stressful life events and television viewing. Communication Research,
23(3), 243-260.
Berger, B.G., Owen, D.R., & Man, F., (1993). A brief review of literature and
examination of acute mood benefits of exercise in Czechoslovakian
and United States swimmers. International Journal of Sport
Psychology, 24(2), 130-150.
Don, B.W.M. (1997). The effects of strength training on cardiovascular
reactivity to stress and psychological well-being in college women.
(Doctoral Dissertation, Boston University, 1997). Dissertation
Abstracts International, 57(7B), 4704.
Galea, S., Ahern, J., Resnick, H., Kilpatrick, D., Bucuvalas, M., Gold, J., &
Vlahov, D. (2002). Psychological Sequelae of the September 11
Terrorist Attacks in New York City. New England Journal of Medicine
346(13), 982-987.
Galician, M.L. (1986). Perceptions of Good News and Bad News on
Television. Journalism Quarterly 63(3), 611-616.
Gauvin, L., & Szabo, A. (1992). Application of the Experience Sampling
Method to the Study of the Effects of Exercise Withdrawal on Well-
being. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 14, 361-374.
Grove, R.J., & Prapavessis, H. (1992). Preliminary Evidence for the
Reliability and Validity of an Abbreviated Profile of Mood States.
International Journal of Sport Psychology, 23, 93-109.
Hargreaves, I., & Thomas, J. (2002). New News, Old News: An ITC and BSC
Research Publication. Cardiff University.
Harrell, J.P. (2000). Affective Responses to Television Newscasts: Have You
Heard the News? (Doctoral dissertation, Western Michigan University,
2000). Dissertation Abstracts International 61(5B), 2762.
Haskins, J.B., Miller, M.M., & Quarles, J. (1984). Reliability of the News
Direction Scale for Analysis of the Good-Bad News Dimension.
Journalism Quarterly, 61, 524-528.
Johnson, R.N. (1996). Bad News Revisited: The Portrayal of Violence,
Conflict, and Suffering on Television News. Peace and Conflict:
Journal of Peace Psychology, 2(3), 201-216.
Johnston, W.M., & Davey, G.C.L. (1997). The psychological impact of
negative TV news bulletins: The catastrophizing of personal worries.
British Journal of Psychology, 88(1), 85-91.
Nolen, H.S., & Morrow, J. (1993). Effects of rumination and distraction on
naturally occurring depressed mood. Cognition-and-Emotion, 7(6),
Potts, R., & Sanchez, D. (1994). Television Viewing and Depression: No
News is Good News. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media,
38, 79-90.
Roper Starch (1995). America’s watching: Public attitudes toward television.
New York: Roper Starch Worldwide.
Rosenthal, R. (1991). Meta-analytic procedures for social research. Newbury
Park, CA: Sage.
Psychological effects of newscasts
Russell, W., Pritschet, B., Frost, B., Emmett, J., Pelley, T.J., Black, J., &
Owen, J. (2003) A comparison of post-exercise mood enhancement
across common exercise distraction activities. Journal of Sport
Behavior, 26(4), 368-382.
Schutz, R.W., & Gessaroli, M.E. (1987). The analysis of repeated measures
designs involving multiple dependent variables. Research Quarterly
for Exercise and Sport, 58, 132-149.
Spielberger, C.D., Gorsuch, R.L., & Lushene, R.E. (1970). Manual for the
State-Trait Anxiety Inventory: Self-Evaluation Questionnaire. Palo
Alto, California: Consulting Psychologists Press.
Stone, G.C., & Grusin, E. (1984). Network TV as the Bad News Bearer.
Journalism Quarterly, 61, 517-523.
Table 1: Contents of the news seen by the research participants.
Fire brigade call for national strikes
Serial snipers kills 9 and injures 3 in Washington
Government under question over Bali bombing pre-warning
Murder trial of 4 men begins after 3 generations die in house fire
Taxes raised after 7 billion shortfall in public sector spending
Doctors organisation urges government to stamp out smoking
Surprise in money distribution for cancer research
Gun rampage kills 2 at a Melbourne university
Trial begins for women who hired a hit man to kill her husband
One of 4 siblings decides to stay at home to live with their parents
Britain counts costs of the worst gales in a decade
Russia’s day of mourning for 118 killed in theatre siege
Terrorist supporters clash with police in Indonesia
Doctors warn government casualty units are struggling to meet waiting times
Plane spotters convicted of spy charges hold protest in London of their innocence
Government battles to hold off national fire strikes
Dyslexia campaigners call for more help
US teenager kills 2 in shooting spree after criticism of his driving
The trial continues for butler of the late Princess Dianna over stolen letters
Psychological effects of newscasts
Table 2: Results of the Bonferroni-corrected paired t-tests performed to
establish the effects of 15 min news-watching on four psychological measures in
the two groups.
Effect size
.09 (NS)
.09 (NS)
Note: Effect sizes were calculated on the basis of the method described by
Rosenthal (1991).
Table 3: Means, standard deviations (SD in brackets), and independent t-test results
of the comparison of the two groups 15 minutes after watching the news.
(mean ± SD)
(mean ± SD)
State Anxiety
32.17 (6.50)
41.27 (8.52)
Mood Disturbance
9.14 (14.10)
22.83 (17.91)
Negative Affect
10.83 (4.58)
16.87 (7.41)
Positive Affect
21.43 (6.79)
15.92 (6.67)
Psychological effects of newscasts
Pre-News Post-News 15 min later
Relaxation Control
Figure 1: Interaction effect graph illustrating state anxiety before and after watching
the news and 15 minutes later after either relaxation or lecture (control).
Pre-News Post-News 15 min later
Relaxation Control
Figure 2: Interaction effect graph illustrating total mood disturbance (TMD) before
and after watching the news and 15 minutes later after either relaxation or lecture
Psychological effects of newscasts
Pre-News Post-News 15 min later
Relaxation Control
Figure 3: Interaction effect graph illustrating positive affect (PA) before and after
watching the news and 15 minutes later after either relaxation or lecture (control).
Pre-News Post-News 15 min later
Relaxation Control
Figure 4: Interaction effect graph illustrating negative affect (NA) before and after
watching the news and 15 minutes later after either relaxation or lecture (control).
... The relationship between news and emotional state is actually not a recent discovery. Hong & Verboon (2019) stated that the relationship between negative news and a negative emotional state has been found in numerous experimental studies (Balzarotti & Cicero, 2014;Johnston & Davey, 1997;Marin et al., 2012;McIntyre & Gibson, 2016;Szabo & Hopkinson, 2007;Unz et al., 2008;Veitch & Griffitt, 1976), and similar discovery was also found with positive news (Bazán et al., 2021;McIntyre & Gibson, 2016;Shekhar, 2021). These impacts on the emotional state should be studied further for their impact on society. ...
... However, a new question appears, what about COVID-19 news that does not have any specific emotional valence? Most similar researchers used the news that has certain emotional valence to see its impact on the individual emotional state (Balzarotti & Cicero, 2014;Bazán et al., 2021;Johnston & Davey, 1997;Marin et al., 2012;McIntyre & Gibson, 2016;Shekhar, 2021;Szabo & Hopkinson, 2007;Unz et al., 2008;Veitch & Griffitt, 1976), but there has not been any study that studied the impact of COVID-19 news is not nuanced by any particular emotional valence towards the individual emotional state. Therefore, this study aims to find empirical evidence on the impact of sans emotional valence COVID-19 news on the emotional state of higher education students. ...
... Hence, assumptions about COVID-19 information provided, even without any specific emotional valence in the way it is presented, could impact one's depression rate, especially in young adult students, though this needs further separate review in this study. Many participants found that information about COVID-19 should be the focus of future studies, because the copious amount of news about COVID-19 with negative emotional valence (Aslam et al., 2020) would increase one's negative affect (Balzarotti & Cicero, 2014;Johnston & Davey, 1997;Marin et al., 2012;McIntyre & Gibson, 2016;Szabo & Hopkinson, 2007;Unz et al., 2008;Veitch & Griffitt, 1976), even if the news did not have a negative emotional valence, just like the ones in this study, it would still decrease one's positive affect. ...
Full-text available
COVID-19 pandemic generated copious amounts of news regarding COVID-19 that is circulating among the public. Both positive (e.g., vaccine development) and negative (e.g., COVID-19 cases increase) news affect emotional states on an individual level, specifically for the student in higher education. They are struggling in challenging situations while adapting to online learning, which is not easy for them. This study aims to gain knowledge and gather empirical data on the COVID-19 news impact on young adult students in one of the public universities in West Java, Indonesia. We used an experimental approach in this study. Sixty participants were randomly assigned into control and experiment (i.e., being exposed to COVID-19 news) groups. Positive Affect Negative Affect Schedule was used to measure participants' emotional state before and after the experiment. This study shows that COVID-19 news significantly decreases participants’ positive affect when participants have personal experience with COVID-19. Therefore, information sharing regarding COVID-19 has to be done with caution to protect individual emotional states during the pandemic. The student also should restrict the abundant information relating to COVID-19 to maintain their positive emotional state.
... preoccupation, craving, and conflict with other life pursuits. Excessive viewing of negative news may result in psychological states such as depression and anxiety (Johnston & Davey, 1997;Szabo & Hopkinson, 2007). These negative emotions may increase propensity toward risky and impulsive behaviors. ...
... In this vein, one objective of the present study is to investigate potential adverse associations between doomscrolling and mental health of social media users. In an investigation into the psychological effects of televised news, Szabo and Hopkinson (2007) found that watching a 15-min newscast lead to increased state anxiety and mood disturbances in undergraduate students. These negative mood changes persisted even through a lecture intended to divert attention. ...
Negativity bias predicts that individuals will attend to, learn from, and prioritize negative news more than positive news. Drawing from the addiction components model, this cross-sectional study conceptualized and measured “doomscrolling” as excessive thoughts, urges, or behaviors related to the consumption of negative news on social media platforms. Participants were a convenience sample (N = 747) of Iranian social media users. The 8-item, unidimensional Social Media Doomscrolling Scale showed excellent psychometric properties. Men were more likely than women to report doomscrolling. Most respondents reported arousal following doomscrolling. Doomscrolling was negatively associated with psychological wellbeing, satisfaction with life, and motivation to avoid unhealthy behaviors. Doomscrolling was positively associated to impulsivity, engagement in risky behaviors, depression, and future anxiety. Results suggest that doomscrolling is an arousing activity that has the potential to exacerbate worrisome thoughts about future, breed feelings of hopelessness, cultivate appetite for risk, and stifle health consciousness.
... anxiety and newspaper exposure), a significant correlation in the opposite direction was found. These results go against the findings of most previous studies, which have found higher exposure to news to be associated with lower psychological well-being (Balzarotti & Cicero, 2014;Johnston & Davey, 1997;Marin et al., 2012;McIntyre & Gibson, 2016;Szabo & Hopkinson, 2007). Some studies have even shown that exposure to negative news (which represent a large proportion of news, according to some authors at least 50%; Johnson, 1996) can provoke symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorders (Dougall et al., 2005;Hansen, 2009;Jones & Salathé, 2009;Marshall et al., 2007;Piotrkowski & Brannen, 2002;Van den Bulck & Custers, 2009). ...
... The aforementioned study involved a much larger sample (N = 6,386) and we believe we would achieve similar, significant results with a larger sample as well. The significant difference in anxiety scores, which was found between those who read the chosen hard newspapers and those who do not report following any of the two newspapers, suggests that in some cases exposure to news might be a source of anxiety, due to the amount of negative information found in news reporting (Balzarotti & Cicero, 2014;McIntyre & Gibson, 2016;Szabo & Hopkinson, 2007). ...
Full-text available
Past research has shown that news media may contain a disproportionate amount of negative news. Frequent exposure to such negative information could have detrimental effects on our mental well-being. We aimed to gain further insight into the potentially adverse effects of exposure to soft and hard news, as well as to examine potential reasons why individuals might expose themselves to such negative information. To do so, we conducted an online survey involving 176 participants (66 male, 107 female and 3 other) aged 15-65 years. The study included manipulation and additional (correlational) analyses. In the manipulation, we tested for the potential short-term effects of exposure to soft or hard news on the psychological well-being of our participants (as measured by the semi-projective Rotter Incomplete Sentences Blank; Rotter, 1950). This was done by setting three conditions (soft news, hard news and control group) wherein participants were exposed to 15 consecutive front page screenshots of the chosen soft and hard newspapers respectively. Hard news is generally more focused on major issues and breaking events-i.e., news that is important for the individual to understand, while soft news usually focuses on personal stories, is less time-bound, and is more incident-based. The correlational part of our study focused on discovering associations between long-term exposure to (different types of) news and the degree of negative emotions and well-being (measured by the DASS-21, Lovibond & Lovibond, 1995) and Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale (Rosenberg, 1965). The results did not show statistically significant differences between conditions. When comparing the long-term readers of the chosen hard and soft newspapers, statistically significant differences were found only in anxiety levels, however, a forming trend seemed to suggest that long-term exposure to soft news might be associated with reduced psychological well-being. Our findings are discussed in line with the contemporary psychological literature.
... As the stimuli in the experiments were more prone to elicit negative emotions, we expect stronger impact of the IJ production on the negatively valanced responses than on the positive ones. Nonetheless, we are considering positive valence, as an increase of negative emotions goes hand in hand with a decrease of positive emotions (Szabo and Hopkinson 2007). In addition, we measure the perceived intensity of an experience, based on the assumption that the perceived intensity of an experience is related to physiological arousal (MacDowell and Mandler 1989). ...
Full-text available
Immersive journalism (IJ) is often assumed to be inherently emotion-inducing. Through using inclusive technology, interaction possibilities and immersive narratives, the audience should ideally experience what feels like to be in a certain situation. However, for the most part we do not know to which extent and in what form IJ influences the experience of emotions. We wanted to investigate, whether, and if so, which characteristics of IJ are related to the experience of emotions, and which role the personality trait empathy tendency plays in this respect. This is important, as the evaluation of IJ often relies on the emotion-inducing assumption thereof. Four different experiments comparing one immersive journalistic characteristic (level of inclusion, interaction possibilities, immersive narratives) to the respective non-immersive counterpart were conducted. Results indicate that while the level of inclusion and interaction possibility increase the intensity of the experience, the immersive narrative influences the valence dimension of emotions. Additionally, empathy tendency is found to be a relevant moderator for these effects. Conclusions are threefold. First, the narrative form of IJ is key; second, the analysis of IJ needs to go beyond the level of inclusion; third, including emotions when assessing IJ is fundamental to understand its impact.
... McIntyre and Gibson (2016) discovered differences in positive affect between all comparisons of positively, negatively, and neutral-valenced stories, with positive stories eliciting the most positive affect. Focusing on negative news only, Szabo and Hopkinson (2007) found that exposure to such news negatively affected the mood of participants, an effect that could be moderated by relaxation techniques. Furthermore, as noted above, a study by Hermans and Prins (2022) has shown that in comparison to those who read traditional news, readers of news deliberately written to be constructive (inclusion of positive emotion words, mentions of solutions to issues) reported higher levels of positive emotions. ...
Full-text available
We report on the first investigation of large-scale temporal associations between emotions expressed in online news media and those expressed on social media (Twitter). This issue has received little attention in previous research, although the study of emotions expressed on social media has bloomed owing to its importance in the study of mental health at the population level. Relying on automatically emotion-coded data from almost 1 million online news articles on disease and the coronavirus and more than 6 million tweets, we examined such associations. We found that prior changes in generic emotional categories (positive and negative emotions) in the news on the topic of disease were associated with lagged changes in these categories in tweets. Discrete negative emotions did not robustly feature this pattern. Emotional categories coded in online news stories on the coronavirus generally featured weaker and more disparate lagged associations with emotional categories coded in subsequent tweets.
... 3. Szabo and Hopkinson (2007) applied the least common approach. The researchers solely recorded TV news reports on the morning of the experiment day. ...
Full-text available
The article reveals the procedure of selecting real media re-ports (RMR) on the COVID-19 pandemic in experimental studies. We assumed that RMR during the pandemic and several lockdowns had a real impact on people from different social groups. To monitor messages about COVID-19, we used the online service "Software product LOOQME" The algorithm to form the RMR sample was as follows: (a) search for all media messages available on the platform, (b) analysis of selected RMR by online service, (c) forming of an experimental content sample and its embedding in the experiment. The method of selecting RMR considered in this article includes a theoretical rationale for RMR; broad thematic selection of RMR using media monitoring systems; forming an experimental content sample with the use of parameters and selection criteria; additional procedure for rating the selected RMR according to a particular criterion with the participation of experts
Full-text available
This study examined the effects of news engagement (NE) vs. entertainment engagement (EE), and of social media health literacy (SMHL) on mental health and coping during the first COVID-19 lockdown. Further, it investigated the moderating effect of SMHL between NE, EE, mental health, and coping relations. The study is drawing on mood management theory and stress- coping theory and is based on a cross-sectional online survey of 478 participants aged 18 years and older. Moderated multiple regression and path analyses were used; the results indicated that both NE and EE predicted a significant increase in anxiety and depression and increased the participants’ online and offline coping. While SMHL predicted a substantial decrease in anxiety and depression, with an increase in online and offline coping. SMHL significantly moderated (weakened) the relations between NE and both anxiety and depression. Online coping significantly mediated the relations between both NE and EE and offline coping. This study proposes that EE has less effect on anxiety and depression than NE does. Findings support that online coping is an important factor in understanding the relationship between genre-specific social media engagement and offline coping in health crises. SMHL is a crucial moderator for managing the effects of NE on mental health. The study recommends algorithmic awareness as an item of SMHL and rationalization of social media use as a crucial coping mechanism.
Background: Consumption of distressing news media, which increased substantially during the COVID-19 pandemic, has demonstrable negative effects on mental health. Objective: The current study examines the proximal impact of daily exposure to news about COVID-19 on mental health in the first year of the pandemic. Methods: A sample of 546 college students completed daily ecological momentary assessments for 8 weeks measuring exposure to news about COVID-19, worry and optimism specifically related to COVID-19, hopelessness, and general worry. Results: Participants completed >80,000 surveys. Multilevel mediation models indicated that greater daily exposure to news about COVID-19 was associated with higher same-day and next-day worry about the pandemic. Elevations in worry specifically about COVID-19 were in turn associated with greater next-day hopelessness and general worry. Optimism about COVID-19 mediated the relationship between daily exposure to COVID-19 news and next-day general worry but was not related to hopelessness. Conclusions: This study demonstrates the mental health impact of daily exposure to COVID-19 news and highlights how worry about the pandemic contributes over time to hopelessness and general worry. Clinicaltrial:
This study examines the impact of news content sentiment on digital news readership and social media sharing. Using econometric analyses and models estimated with rich clickstream data on online news readership and social media sharing data collected from Twitter, we find a differential effect of sentiment on news readership and sharing behaviors. Specifically, individuals are likely to read news articles with negative headline sentiment on the news website but tend to share articles with positive article sentiment on Twitter. Upon decomposition of news article sentiment, we find a contrasting positive author sentiment effect and a negative news topic valence effect on news readership. Interestingly, we uncover that an increase in a Twitter user’s followers leads to an increase in the Twitter user’s propensity to share positive-sentiment news articles. Overall, our findings affirm the coopetitive but complementary relationship between news websites and social media platforms. Our results also guide publishers to better craft their news content and manage social media presence to improve audience engagement and readership outcomes while preserving the agenda-setting ability of news media. Importantly, given the dichotomy between news reading and sharing behaviors, predicting individual behaviors based on social media opinions may need to be viewed with prudence.
Full-text available
Traditional problem-focussed news often cast audiences in passive and reactive ways, which can disempower them from participating in civic life. With influences from positive psychology, solutions journalism (SOJO) is proposed as a way to improve audiences’ mental wellbeing and engagement with the news. However, research seldom systematically examines how SOJO psychologically empowers audiences, leaving a gap for a more thorough understanding of the potential of SOJO in fulfilling the democratic role of journalism. Drawing on the theory of psychological empowerment (PE) and through 59 in-depth interviews with members of the public in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we examine UK audience responses to the concept of SOJO. Normatively promising findings emerged from our study. SOJO was considered to be useful in intrapersonal empowerment (i.e., increasing perceived control and self-efficacy), interactional empowerment (i.e., enhancing critical awareness), and behavioural empowerment (i.e., motivating community involvement and coping behaviours). Theoretically, this study establishes a firm connection between SOJO and PE which, we argue, has important implications for journalism’s often troubled relationship with civic engagement. As such, we call for a rethinking of the often taken-for-granted problem-focussed news practices.
Full-text available
Mood management theory predicts that people experiencing stress use television to block anxious thoughts and to replace dysphoric moods. In a survey of 491 adults, Study 1 found that stress as measured by life events was unrelated to time spent TV viewing but for women, was positively related to scores on a scale of television addiction. In Study 2, viewing diaries of 329 families were examined with relation to stressful life events. Mood management theory was confirmed in that stress was associated with increased comedy and decreased news in the viewing diet. Stressed women watched more game and variety programming as well as more overall TV. Stressed men watched more action and violent programming. Study 3 examined time-lapse video recordings of 140 adults' TV viewing at home. In men, there was a positive correlation of stress with amount of looking at the TV.
Full-text available
Mildly-to-moderately depressed and nondepressed subjects were randomly assigned to spend 8 minutes focusing their attention on their current feeling states and personal characteristics (rumination condition) or on descriptions of geographic locations and objects (distraction condition). Depressed subjects in the rumination condition became significantly more depressed, whereas depressed subjects in the distraction condition became significantly less depressed. Rumination and distraction did not affect the moods of nondepressed subjects. These results support the hypothesis that ruminative responses to depressed mood exacerbate and prolong depressed mood. whereas distracting response shorten depressed mood.
Details the development and testing of the "News Direction Scale," which is designed to measure the negative-positive dimension of news. Reports the scale to be highly reliable. (FL)
This study examines television viewing motives and psychological outcomes of television news viewing by persons in depressive moods. Subjects were measured for depression, motives for television use, and psychological outcomes of viewing TV newscasts. Results suggest that, in general, television viewing can serve as a means of escape from depressive moods, although viewing of news programming may exacerbate such moods.
Almost all of the research on television violence has focused only on entertainment programming. The most realistic, most violent, and most heavily watched programs tend to be TV news broadcasts, yet such programs are rarely analyzed for violent content. This study sought to identify the amount and type of violence, conflict, and suffering portrayed on 4 different types of 100 TV news programs over a 6-mo period. The programs selected included national network news, local news, independent superstation news, and cable network news. In terms of both news time and news stories, more than half (53.4%) of the news depicted various forms of violence, conflict, and suffering. In addition, "bad news" received further emphasis by an early placement in the broadcasts. Although the local news broadcasts contained the most bad news, all 4 types of programs were remarkably similar in their emphasis on negative news. It is contended that profits and prestige govern the content of TV news, not a desire to inform the public or to provide balanced coverage.