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There has been increasing media coverage of mass violence and negative events throughout the world. With advancements in smartphone technology have come increased accessibility to media coverage. Not only are individuals able to access media almost anywhere, anytime, but they are also exposed to news via almost all social media platforms. While this increased accessibility to media and news coverage provides us with unlimited information, it could also be concerning because of the implications it can have on the mental health of readers or viewers, particularly given the wide reach of media coverage.
The increased accessibility that smartphones provide is comparable to the increased capability that the internet has provided to access news from around the world. Many people use social media, and there are still conflicting findings indicating the potentially negative effects of social media itself (for a review of social media more broadly, see Valkenburg, Meier, & Abeele, 2022). However, it is undeniable that the information related to current events such as the war in Ukraine, the public deaths by suicide occurring in Jordan, political violence in Colombia, gender-based violence in Lebanon, rebel invasions in Ethiopia, the threat of the Thwaites glacier, the violent anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine protests in Melbourne, as well as more local negative events occurring in the United States, can be easily found on social media, other media platforms, and any electronic device with access to the internet. The globalization of news coverage is extremely helpful in keeping us informed on events, yet the impact of this exposure on our mental health might outweigh the benefits.
In fact, there is now a term for the increase in negative affect that can occur after viewing negative media, in this case specifically related to the COVID-19 pandemic, on a mobile device; the authors refer to this effect as “doomscrolling” (Price et al., 2022). In their study, “doomscrolling” was associated with negative mental health outcomes, particularly for those with a history of traumatic experiences. This echoes other research that indicates a relation between viewing media coverage of other events, such as knife attacks, and mental health difficulties including trauma symptoms (Secker & Braithwaite, 2021). In this study, greater frequency of viewing negative media coverage was associated with higher symptoms. A study by Wormwood and colleagues (2019) found that individuals reported more distress, increased startle reactivity, and less perceptual sensitivity to threats when the tone of mass violence media coverage was more negative. Another study by Holman and colleagues (2008) reported data from a national sample of adults completed before and after the 9/11 attacks and found that acute physiological responses to 9/11 predicted increased diagnosis of cardiovascular ailments.
Additional research that examines the effects of media coverage, as well as possible moderators that might impact the relation between media consumption and the negative impact on mental health, continues to be published. These studies can aid in understanding prevention and intervention strategies for any potential negative impacts of media on an individual’s mental health. As the relation between media coverage and mental health symptoms is uncovered, it could be helpful to consider how this might inform current treatments. For example, treatments used to address PTSD and trauma- and stressor-related disorders that have been shown to be effective across trauma types and for many constellations of symptoms of PTSD might be applied to individuals experiencing mental health symptoms as a result of media consumption. Future research may look at adapting or tailoring these treatments based on the type of exposure an individual has had, such as media exposure. Prevention and resiliency programs might also be helpful and can be easily disseminated and implemented. As technology continues to grow, further understanding about the connection between media consumption and mental health can aid in ensuring that the negative impact of “doomscrolling” does not continue to spread.

About the Author

Kelsey Petrey is a clinical psychology doctoral student at the University of Central Florida (UCF). She currently provides evidence-based treatment to Veterans and First Responders suffering from PTSD and related disorders at UCF RESTORES. Her research focuses on improvements to trauma treatments and residual symptoms of PTSD following treatment completion. 


Holman, E. A., Silver, R. C., Poulin, M., Andersen, J., Gil-Rivas, V., & McIntosh, D. N. (2008). Terrorism, acute stress, and cardiovascular health: A 3-year national study following the September 11th attacks. Archives of general psychiatry, 65(1), 73-80.

Price, M., Legrand, A. C., Brier, Z. M., van Stolk-Cooke, K., Peck, K., Dodds, P. S., ... & Adams, Z. W. (2022). Doomscrolling during COVID-19: The negative association between daily social and traditional media consumption and mental health symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy.

Secker, R., & Braithwaite, E. (2021). Social Media Induced Secondary Traumatic Stress: Can Viewing News Relating to Knife Crime Via Social Media Induce PTSD Symptoms?. Psychreg Journal of Psychology.
Valkenburg, P.M., Beyens, I., Meier, A., & Vanden Abeele, Mariek M. P. (2022). Advancing Our Understanding of the Associations Between Social Media Use and Well-Being. Current Opinion in Psychology, 45, 101357

Wormwood, J. B., Lin, Y. R., Lynn, S. K., Barrett, L. F., & Quigley, K. S. (2019). Psychological impact of mass violence depends on affective tone of media content. PLoS one, 14(4), e0213891.