Is ignorance bliss? The relationship between news exposure and anxiety levels in adults

  • Rebecca Reidy Bunn The New School for Social Research
  • Antonina S. Farmer Randolph-Macon College


News exposure has yet to be studied as a daily hassle contributing to anxiety. This study aimed to (1) establish if a relationship between news exposure and anxiety levels exists, (2) evaluate whether anxiety levels change over time in relation to news exposure, and (3) establish if emotion regulation moderates these relationships. Participants reported their news exposure, psychological symptoms, intolerance of uncertainty, psychological flexibility, and perseverative thinking. Five hundred and two participants were in the initial sample, followed by 304 in Wave 2 and 305 in Wave 3. About half of the participants were daily consumers of news. Controlling for age, there was no direct correlation between news exposure and anxiety levels concurrently or prospectively. Participants’ access to news did not significantly differ between waves. Wave 1 news-related variables did not predict anxiety at Wave 1 or 2. Overall, participants who experienced greater enjoyment from the news were less stressed and had greater psychological flexibility. Prospectively, they were less likely to be depressed, controlling for initial levels. Greater exposure and less news enjoyment predicted more intolerance of uncertainty prospectively. Overall, those who reported high levels of depression reported lower levels of engagement and enjoyment from the news while having higher intolerance of uncertainty, perseverative thinking, and less psychological flexibility. Although our findings did not support our hypothesis about anxiety, news exposure and level of enjoyment from news predicted other areas of psychological distress. This indicates a need for more nuanced research on the relationship between news exposure and mental health outcomes.

Author Biographies

Rebecca Reidy Bunn, The New School for Social Research

Rebecca is a 3rd year psychology PhD student at the New School for Social Research.

Antonina S. Farmer, Randolph-Macon College
Dr. Farmer is an assistant professor of psychology at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, VA. 


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