Ole Myklebust Amundsen, Asle Hoffart, Sverre Urnes Johnson and Omid V. Ebrahimi


The 2020-2021 COVID-19 pandemic has added to the mental health strain on individuals and groups across the world. Viral mitigation protocols and viral spread affect millions every day, but to widely different degrees. How individuals gather information about the pandemic might have an effect on levels of mental distress in the population. In this cross-sectional and representative study of the adult population of Norway, findings suggest that information gathered through newspapers and social media are the information pathways with the strongest association to symptoms of anxiety, depression and health anxiety with small to medium effect sizes. However, avoiding information about the pandemic had larger effect sizes related to symptoms of psychopathology than acquiring information about the pandemic from any source. The results suggest that to reach those who avoid pandemic news is an important goal, both to ensure the population as a whole gets relevant information regarding current viral mitigation protocols, that may in turn alleviate stress, and thus reduce the likelihood of viral transmission. The spread of pandemic misinformation on social media and the internet must be buffered, and successful interventions against misinformation may affect the mental health of the population.

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