Mental health consequences of COVID-19 media coverage: the need for effective crisis communication practices

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Su Z., McDonnell D., Wen J., KOZAK M., Abbas J., Segalo S., ...More

GLOBALIZATION AND HEALTH, vol.17, no.1, 2021 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 17 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Doi Number: 10.1186/s12992-020-00654-4
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, Aquatic Science & Fisheries Abstracts (ASFA), CAB Abstracts, CINAHL, EMBASE, Geobase, MEDLINE, Veterinary Science Database, Directory of Open Access Journals
  • Keywords: COVID-19, Coronavirus, Mental health, Crisis communication, Infodemic, Misinformation, Disinformation
  • Dokuz Eylül University Affiliated: Yes


During global pandemics, such as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), crisis communication is indispensable in dispelling fears, uncertainty, and unifying individuals worldwide in a collective fight against health threats. Inadequate crisis communication can bring dire personal and economic consequences. Mounting research shows that seemingly endless newsfeeds related to COVID-19 infection and death rates could considerably increase the risk of mental health problems. Unfortunately, media reports that include infodemics regarding the influence of COVID-19 on mental health may be a source of the adverse psychological effects on individuals. Owing partially to insufficient crisis communication practices, media and news organizations across the globe have played minimal roles in battling COVID-19 infodemics. Common refrains include raging QAnon conspiracies, a false and misleading "Chinese virus" narrative, and the use of disinfectants to "cure" COVID-19. With the potential to deteriorate mental health, infodemics fueled by a kaleidoscopic range of misinformation can be dangerous. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of research on how to improve crisis communication across media and news organization channels. This paper identifies ways that legacy media reports on COVID-19 and how social media-based infodemics can result in mental health concerns. This paper discusses possible crisis communication solutions that media and news organizations can adopt to mitigate the negative influences of COVID-19 related news on mental health. Emphasizing the need for global media entities to forge a fact-based, person-centered, and collaborative response to COVID-19 reporting, this paper encourages media resources to focus on the core issue of how to slow or stop COVID-19 transmission effectively.