Information-seeking has generally been seen as an adaptive response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it may also result in negative outcomes on mental health. The present study tests whether reporting COVID-related information-seeking throughout the pandemic is associated with subsequently poorer mental health outcomes. A quota-based, non-probability-sampling methodology was used to recruit a nationally representative sample. COVID-related information-seeking was assessed at six waves along with symptoms of depression, anxiety, mental wellbeing and loneliness (N = 1945). Hierarchical linear modelling was used to assess the relationship between COVID-related information-seeking and mental health outcomes. Information-seeking was found to reduce over time. Overall, women, older and higher socioeconomic group individuals reported higher levels of information-seeking. At waves 1-4 (March-June 2020) the majority of participants reported that they sought information on Covid 1-5 times per day, this decreased to less than once per day in waves 5 and 6 (July-November 2020). Higher levels of information-seeking were associated with poorer mental health outcomes, particularly clinically significant levels of anxiety. Use of a non-probability sampling method may have been a study limitation, nevertheless, reducing or managing information-seeking behaviour may be one method to reduce anxiety during pandemics and other public health crises.
This article is available under the Creative Commons CC-BY-NC license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) and permits non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial reuse, permission must be requested.
Wilding, S., O'Connor, D., Ferguson, E., Wetherall, K., Cleare, S., O'Carroll, R., Robb, K. & O'Connor, R. 2022, 'Information seeking, mental health and loneliness: Longitudinal analyses of adults in the UK COVID-19 Mental Health & Wellbeing study', Psychiatry Research. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2022.114876