Negative News Media Consumption Increases Depression during COVID-19

In 2019 the U.S. housed 255,200,373 adults ages 18 and older, and approximately one in five of the adults experienced depression with varying severities. Statistics state COVID-19 in 2020 alarmingly tripled the 2019 depression rate in U.S. adults.

What is even more disturbing, the global prevalence of depression in 2017 was 3.44% and it surged 7 times higher to 25% during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is common knowledge that with any national event, global event, or natural disaster individuals often find themselves glued to the news media to obtain pertinent information regarding the situation; in order to understand how it will affect them and their family, or their community. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the same tendencies, and yet the huge surge in depression in U.S. adults and adults globally exposed a troubling truth about the negative effect of news media consumption on a mind.

German Study on the Correlation of COVID-19 Negative News Media Consumption and Depression

Negative News Media and Depression

One study conducted in Germany found the frequency, daily duration of COVID-19 media consumption, and the diversity of media coverage to be positively related to increased depression levels; concluding the overconsumption of media had a negative effect on individuals mental well-being. This illustrates the importance of balance in life; specifically, balancing negative media consumption with the hope we find in the Word of God. Media is essential, as it provides information regarding current events, but our brain can only take in so much without experiencing overload and increasing stress levels, anxiety and depression. We are human. We need to self-regulate, recognizing our own limit of consumption. The Word of God is even more essential. We need God’s truths at home in our heart, so we are able to filter news media through the lens of Christ; for He is our authority.

COVID-19 Negative News Media Minus a Solution Increased Hopelessness Amongst Individuals

Negative News Media and Depression

Another academic study argued greater COVID-19 media consumption with the absence of a solution like a vaccine, heightened individuals’ anxiety about their future, as the virus threatened their health and well-being; thus increased their psychological distress, resulting in depression. Thus, negative news consumption minus a solution increased hopelessness amongst the population.

This study revealed an important component found in humanity, the natural desire for a solution to one’s problem. Solutions decrease negative mood, and ignite hope; while the lack of a solution increases negative mood, resulting in hopelessness. Hopelessness is a cognitive vulnerability, and is one contributing factor to the development of depression.1 It is when an individual is looking at their situation and future in a negative light, feeling helpless; thus, in the case of COVID-19, the hopelessness that individuals were experiencing was a state response to COVID-19’s overwhelming effect on the global community, and the cognitive realization that there was not an imminent solution.2 Researchers indicate those who struggle with state hopelessness benefit from short term interventions.3 Therefore, should a future global pandemic occur, or any consuming negative situation, authorities should continually remind the population to participate in positive activities that increase positive mood and decrease negativity – Philippians 4:8; to focus their mind on the present and not worry about their future – Matthew 6:34; to self-regulate their consumption of news media and to stop watching news coverage when they are cognitively overwhelmed.

Christian Biblical Worldview

Christian Biblical Worldview

As Christians, we know Jesus Christ is our divine intervention and the solution to our every problem. In these times, when people are cognitively immobilized by anxiety or depression in a state response, we come alongside as Galatians 6:1-2 states, and we encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ to live out their faith. This is a moment for growth, for everyone. The Christian life is active, as we face a variety of seasons that hold different intensities. Keeps life interesting. God’s truths are applicable and livable in every season. Jesus Christ is our Counselor – Isaiah 9:6; and He has given us His word to show us the way to walk during the times we face – Psalm 119:105. Oftentimes, we fail to realize, someone’s cognitive immobility is one way God is opening our eyes to their need for help. God commanded us to love; and so, if we come across someone who is struggling, He placed us right there to step in and help in whatever way we can. In these moments, we assess the current situation and ask God, “What is the real need here?” God’s response to you will vary depending on the severity of their situation. Some just need someone there, others need to be gently reminded to take their eyes off of the problem and to place them on Jesus, and some may need medical attention.

Jesus Christ is the Solution

Seriously, praise God, Jesus Christ is our solution. He is the answer to every problem. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Him – John 14:6. He is our guide. Our complete satisfaction in life is found in Him. He is our shepherd, and we lack nothing – Psalm 23:1. God has given us perfect provision in Himself, the Trinity, for everything we face. As we live our faith, He increases our faith.

The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus Christ came to bring us life and that abundantly – John 10:10. He brings us an abundant life through the wisdom found in His Word – Proverbs 8:35, as this wisdom applied to our life increases our common sense, insight and strength; helping us thrive through adversity – Proverbs 8:14.

Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit; He lives in us and was given to us by God – 1 Corinthians 6:19. We were bought with a high price, so we need to honor God with our bodies – 1 Corinthians 6:20; taking care of our bodies/mental well-being, so that we can function in our everyday activities of living, doing the will of the Father. Depression is immobilizing; it stops movement forward as people feel stuck, almost paralyzed mentally with hopelessness; it negatively effects individual’s families, is one of the leading causes of disability, and is a cause for loss of productivity in work. Therefore, any proactive step to prevent the occurrence or reoccurrence of depression is vital to well-being.

The Mind of Christ Overcomes Depression

The Mind of Christ Overcomes Depression

Therefore, though studies have shown COVID-19 news media consumption to increase depression in adults in the U.S. and globally, an important proactive step to overcome depression or prevent the reoccurrence of depression is to seek to have the mind of Christ in each situation we face; especially as we listen to negative news media – 1 Corinthians 2:16. In order to have the mind of Christ – viewing situations with the eyes of Christ – it is important for us to keep the Word of God at the forefront of our lives. God’s Word is our anchor when the chaos seems to reign; housing truths that we can live amidst turmoil. We can thrive through difficulty when we seek the Lord and pursue a life living out His word. Thus, as we read the Word of God consistently, to grow in our personal relationship with Him; we see current events with a biblical worldview and find comfort and assurance in His promises. Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh – John 1:14, and the source of our hope – Romans 15:13. Our confidence is in Him, now through eternity; not in a temporal solution untested. As we read the Bible, spending time in His presence, we experience the fullness of joy – complete satisfaction – and are filled with peace as we trust Him; we then overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit, and hopelessness is diminished – Romans 15:13.

1 Nalipay, M., and Ku, L. (2019). Indirect effect of hopelessness on depression symptoms through perceived burdensomeness. Psychological Reports, 122(5),  1618-1631

2 Dunn, S., Robbins, L., Smith, S., Ranganathan, R., DeVon, H., Collins, E., Hong, H., & Tintle, N. (2019). Enhancing physical activity in cardiac patients who report hopelessness: feasibility testing of an intervention. Health Education Journal, 78(2) , 226-237.

3 Ibid.

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