‘Less than five minutes of bad news on social media can lower mood’

Less than five minutes of scrolling through social media posts of bad news about Covid-19 is enough to lower a person’s mood, research suggests.

Participants were randomly assigned to spend a few minutes reading bad news relating to coronavirus on Twitter or watching a YouTube video of someone commenting about it.

In both studies, participants reported lower wellbeing compared with a control group who had not been exposed to any Covid-19 news.

Consumption of two to four minutes’ of news related to Covid led to “immediate and significant reductions in positive effect”, according to the study from the University of Essex.


Their research indicated that news about acts of kindness during the pandemic did not have the same negative impact, “suggesting that not all social media exposure is detrimental for wellbeing”.

Dr Kathryn Buchanan, of Essex University’s Department of Psychology, said: “If even a mere few minutes of exposure to bad Covid-related news can result in immediate reductions to wellbeing, then extended and repeated exposure may over time add up to significant mental health consequences.

“Our findings suggest the importance of being mindful of one’s own news consumption, especially on social media.”

– The research is published in the journal PLOS One.