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Mental Health

Avoid Doom-scrolling to Improve Mental Health, Spain Suggests

— October 31, 2022

Study shows avoiding negative current events in the media can improve health.

Staying up to date on current events is something many people do habitually but can this cause harm to one’s health? new study suggests that it can. In an October 1989 edition of New York Magazine, a reporter named Eric Pooley wrote “If it bleeds, it leads,” describing how news outlets are anticipated to use the most distressing stories as front-page headlines to entice readers. And this is still a standard practiced today. Today’s news is incessantly full of gloomy headlines and doom-scrolling, described as binging on troubling news or social media content, is something a great deal of people are doing. Racial injustice, mass shootings, the coronavirus pandemic, controversial politics, and natural disasters are just a few topics involved. Researchers in Spain recently studied the impact of doom-scrolling

The team found that persistently following the news may place a significant burden on mental health. Headline stress disorder, a term coined in 2017 by couple’s therapist Steven Stosny, Ph.D., describes how this comes to be. Stosny said, “For many people, continual alerts from news sources, blogs, social media, and alternative facts feel like missile explosions in a siege without end.”

Avoid Doom-scrolling to Improve Mental Health, Spain Suggests
Photo by Digital Buggu from Pexels

Psychiatrist and neuroimaging researcher in Barcelona Dr. Joaquim Radua, and his team wanted to know how people were able to put a handle on their anxiety and depression feelings manifested during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. During that time, there was mass hysteria. The pandemic came on suddenly and the virus was spreading like wildfire.

The study’s group, consisting of 942 adults living in Spain during the time of participation, completed a bi-weekly online questionnaire to report if they were experiencing any feelings of discontent, as well as how were faring with negative emotions if discontent was present. The study also took into account if the participants had already been diagnosed with anxiety or depressive disorders in order to properly put the results into context.

The Spain research team recruited participants through social media, and after completing a preliminary survey they were randomly selected in a way that allowed the final sample to have a demographic distribution much like the country’s broader population.

The results found that one of the most productive methods of reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety was to pause the intake of negative news. Essentially, doom-scrolling was responsible for making symptoms worse. Other helpful activities included consuming a healthy diet, exercising, and staying well-hydrated. Spending time outdoors in nature was also mentioned.

Researchers also tracked whether the participants were diagnosed with Covid-19 during the length of the study. The data was gathered in 2020 and 2021, and Dr. Radua forewarned that it was uncertain how the results would relate as Covid-19 rates continued to fluctuate (either worsening or letting up). The results have yet to be been published in a peer-reviewed journal. However, they were presented at the 35th ENCP Congress held in Vienna, Austria in mid-October.


‘Grins, Gore and Video’: New York Magazine

What’s Doomscrolling and Can It Harm Me?

Overcoming Headline Stress Disorder

Dr Joaquim Radua MD BStat PhD

Taking a break from the news can improve mental health, study finds

Online Questionnaire

Study Protocol—Coping With the Pandemics: What Works Best to Reduce Anxiety and Depressive Symptoms

35th ENCP Congress

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