What Is Doomscrolling and What Is It Doing to Your Health?

Have you ever found yourself scrolling through social media unable to escape the negativity? You may be the victim of a phenomenon that is known as “doomscrolling” or “doomsurfing”. From the COVID-19 pandemic to the war in Ukraine, mass shootings, and widespread wildfires, there certainly hasn’t been any sort of shortage of concerning global and national events in the news over the last several years. Of course, this is the result of all media and news being covered 24/7 and being accessible from almost any electronic device at our disposal. This constant coverage of negative and at times deeply worrisome events can take a great toll on the people consuming this news on a consistent basis. These “news addicts” or “doomscrollers”, as they’re known, have an excessive need to constantly be connected to the news and check their social media pages. This phenomenon is unfortunately becoming increasingly common among both younger and older Americans as our connection to our phones and the internet continues to increase.

Results from an online survey researchers from Texas Tech University ran concluded that of 1000 adults, 17% of them showed signs of “severely problematic” news consumption. Although this percentage may not seem like much at first glance, its important to keep in mind that that 17% is made up of the most extreme cases of news addiction. In addition, 74% of those with severe levels of problematic news consumption reported experiencing mental problems and 61% reported physical health symptoms. Among the other participants of this survey, 27.3% reported “moderately problematic” news consumption, 27.5% reported minimally problematic news consumption, while 28.7% reported no problematic news consumption. According to Dr. Bryan McLaughlin, the lead author of the study, “This is certainly concerning and suggest the problem may be more widespread than we expected.”

Unsurprisingly, the group with the highest levels of news consumption were also the most likely to experience mental and physical illnesses. Some of the reported ailments included depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, migraines, high blood pressure, stomach pains/indigestion, and other illnesses. However, people that fell in the moderate and minimal problematic news consumption categories also reported some negative mental and physical symptoms they had been chronically experiencing which may be related to their consumption of news. These findings have important implications for both individual and societal health, as our collective intake of news steadily increases due to its accessibility through social media and tv platforms. Of course, tuning the news out completely is not a viable option for most of us since staying informed about current events is vital to maintaining a healthy democracy and understanding the world we live in. However, there are ways we can combat this increasing issue together as a community.

One way we can possibly combat this issue is through making a conscious effort to improve our collective media literacy. This can be done in a variety of ways but the core methods of improving your media literacy are learning how to recognize fake news, getting your news from multiple sources, and learning how to properly examine statistics and mathematical data that may be presented in the news. Taking time to calmly and objectively examine the information you’re being presented in the news will not only help you determine if there is any bias, it will also help your mental and physical health by allowing for a less emotional response. Allowing your brain time to rationalize the information it is being presented and analyze the truth will help reduce some of the negative side effects of consuming harsher news stories regularly. Although media literacy can be a great tool for fixing the negative health consequences of consuming news constantly, perhaps the solution is even simpler than that. Setting aside time for regular breaks from watching the news and scrolling our social media may be the ultimate key in reducing the stress and anxiety excessive news consumption can bring. So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed scrolling the news, take a deep breathe and step away for awhile.

Brooks, M. (2022, August 25). ‘Doomscrolling’ Takes a Toll on Both Mental and Physical Health. Medscape. Retrieved August 29, 2022, from https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/979737

Authors, A., & McLaughlin, B. (n.d.) (2022, August 23). Caught in a dangerous world: Problematic news consumption and its relationship to mental and physical ill-being. Taylor & Francis. Retrieved August 29, 2022, from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10410236.2022.2106086?scroll=top&needAccess=true

Mental health: What is Doomscrolling and How Can We Stop It? World Economic Forum. (n.d.). Retrieved August 29, 2022, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/07/doomscrolling-mental-health-covid19-sleep/


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