News media exposure and life satisfaction in the COVID-19 pandemic: a moderated mediation model of COVID-19 fear and worries and gender
More details
Hide details
Institute of Psychology, University of Gdansk, Gdansk, Poland
Magdalena Iwanowska   

Institute of Psychology, University of Gdansk, Gdansk, Poland
Submission date: 2022-04-05
Final revision date: 2022-10-29
Acceptance date: 2022-10-31
Online publication date: 2023-01-10
Research has found that news media exposure may have both positive and negative consequences for well-being in times of crisis. However, the internal mechanisms underlying that relationship need further investigation. The pur-pose of the research presented in the paper was to explore the role of COVID-19 fear and worries and users’ gender in the relationship between news media exposure and life satisfaction.

Participants and procedure:
Three hundred seventy-one media users aged 19 to 65 (M = 28.88, SD = 10.25) were surveyed with news media ex-posure, COVID-19 fear and worries, and life satisfaction scales. Correlation analyses and moderated mediation anal-yses were performed.

The study demonstrated a significant positive association between news media exposure and life satisfaction, and an indirect effect of news exposure on life satisfaction via COVID-19 fear moderated by gender: elevated COVID-19 fear decreases the positive association between news exposure and life satisfaction, and this effect is stronger for women.

The present study expands our understanding of the role that news media can play in shaping the user’s well-being in a time of a health crisis. It demonstrates that the effects of exposure to news media during a crisis are twofold. On the one hand, the use of news media is associated with a more positive evaluation of one’s life, which may indicate that media use is a way to cope with a crisis. On the other hand, frequent use of news media leads to an elevated level of fear related to COVID-19, which, in turn, lowers the user’s well-being.

Anwar, A., Malik, M., Raees, V., & Anwar, A. (2020). Role of mass media and public health communications in the COVID-19 pandemic. Cureus, 12, e10453.
American Psychological Association (2020). Stress in the time of COVID-19. Volume one. Retrieved from
Ball-Rokeach, S. J., & DeFleur, M. L. (1976). A dependency model of mass-media effects. Communication Re-search, 3, 3–21.
Balzarotti, S., & Cicero, M. R. (2014). News reports of catastrophes and viewers’ fear: Threat appraisal of positively and negatively framed events. Media Psychology, 17, 357–377.
Baumgartner, S. E., & Wirth, W. (2012). Affective priming during the processing of news articles. Media Psy-chology, 15, 1–18.
Bodas, M., Siman-Tov, M., Peleg, K., & Solomon, Z. (2015). Anxiety-inducing media: The effect of constant news broadcasting on the well-being of Israeli television viewers. Psychiatry, 78, 265–276.
Boukes, M., & Vliegenthart, R. (2017). News consumption and its unpleasant side effect: Studying the effect of hard and soft news exposure on mental well-being over time. Journal of Media Psychology: Theories, Methods, and Applications, 29, 137–147.
Brooks, S. K., Webster, R. K., Smith, L. E., Woodland, L., Wessely, S., Greenberg, N., & Rubin, G. J. (2020). The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: Rapid review of the evidence. The Lancet, 395, 912–920.
Buunk, B. P., & Gibbons, F. X. (Eds.) (1997). Health, coping, and well-being: Perspectives from social compari-son theory. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.
CBOS (2019). Wiarygodność mediów [Credibility of media]. Centrum Badania Opinii Społecznej. Retrieved from
Czapiński, J., & Panek, T. (2015). Diagnoza społeczna 2015. Warunki i jakość życia Polaków [Social diagnosis 2015. Objective and subjective quality of life in Poland]. Rada Monitoringu Społecznego. Retrieved from
de Hoog, N., & Verboon, P. (2020). Is the news making us unhappy? The influence of daily news exposure on emotional states. British Journal of Psychology, 111, 157–173.
Doliński, D., Dolińska, B., Zmaczynska-Witek, B., Banach, M., & Kulesza, W. (2020). Unrealistic optimism in the time of coronavirus pandemic: May it help to kill, if so – whom: disease or the person? Journal of Clin-ical Medicine, 9, 1464.
Dymecka, J., Gerymski, R., & Machnik-Czerwik, A. (2021). Fear of COVID-19 as a buffer in the relationship between perceived stress and life satisfaction in the Polish population at the beginning of the global pan-demic. Health Psychology Report, 9, 149–159.
Eagly, A. H., & Wood, W. (2012). Social role theory. In P. A. M. Van Lange, A. W. Kruglanski, & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), Handbook of theories of social psychology (Vol. 2, pp. 458–476). Sage Publications.
Eden, A. L., Johnson, B. K., Reinecke, L., & Grady, S. M. (2020). Media for coping during COVID-19 social dis-tancing: Stress, anxiety, and psychological well-being. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 577639.
Fardin, M. A. (2020). COVID-19 and anxiety: a review of psychological impacts of infectious disease out-breaks. Archives of Clinical Infectious Diseases, 15, e102779.
Garfin, D. R., Silver, R. C., & Holman, E. A. (2020). The novel coronavirus (COVID-2019) outbreak: Amplifica-tion of public health consequences by media exposure. Health Psychology, 39, 355–357.
Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: a regression-based approach. Guilford Press.
Hofstede Insights (n.d.). Poland – Hofstede Insights. Retrieved from https://www.hofstede-insights.....
Holman, E. A., Garfin, D. R., & Silver, R. C. (2014). Media’s role in broadcasting acute stress following the Boston Marathon bombings. PNAS, 111, 93–98.
IMM (2020). Najbardziej opiniotwórcze media w Polsce. Marzec 2020 [The most opinion-forming media in Poland. March 2020]. Instytut Monitorowania Mediów. Retrieved from
Johnson, R. N. (1996). Bad news revisited: The portrayal of violence, conflict, and suffering on television news. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 2, 201–216.
Johnston, W. M., & Davey, G. C. (1997). The psychological impact of negative TV news bulletins: The catastrophizing of personal worries. British Journal of Psychology, 88, 85–91.
Kim, H. K., Ahn, J., Atkinson, L., & Kahlor, L. A. (2020). Effects of COVID-19 misinformation on information seeking, avoidance, and processing: a multicountry comparative study. Science Communication, 42, 586–615.
Knobloch-Westerwick, S., Hastall, M. R., & Rossmann, M. (2009). Coping or escaping? Effects of life dissatis-faction on selective exposure. Communication Research, 36, 207–228.
Kowal, M., Coll-Martín, T., Ikizer, G., Rasmussen, J., Eichel, K., Studzińska, A., Koszałkowska, K., Karwowski, M., Najmussaqib, A., Pankowski, D., Lieberoth, A., & Ahmed, O. (2020). Who is the most stressed during the COVID-19 pandemic? Data from 26 countries and areas. Applied Psychology. Health and Well-Being, 12, 946–966.
Kroencke, L., Geukes, K., Utesch, T., Kuper, N., & Back, M. D. (2020). Neuroticism and emotional risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Research in Personality, 89, 104038.
Lazarus, R. S. (1991). Progress on a cognitive-motivational-relational theory of emotion. American Psy-chologist, 46, 819–834.
Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal and coping. Springer.
Lewis, N., & Weaver, A. J. (2016). Emotional responses to social comparisons in reality television program-ming. Journal of Media Psychology: Theories, Methods, and Applications, 28, 65–77.
Li, J., Bünning, M., Kaiser, T., & Hipp, L. (2022). Who suffered most? Parental stress and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany. Journal of Family Research, 34, 281–309.
Mares, M. L., & Cantor, J. (1992). Elderly viewers’ responses to televised portrayals of old age. Empathy and mood management versus social comparison. Communication Research, 19, 459–478.
Marin, M. F., Morin-Major, J. K., Schramek, T. E., Beaupre, A., Perna, A., Juster, R. P., & Lupien, S. J. (2012). There is no news like bad news: Women are more remembering and stress reactive after reading real negative news than men. PLoS One, 7, e47189.
McCauley, M., Minsky, S., & Viswanath, K. (2013). The H1N1 pandemic: Media frames, stigmatization and coping. BMC Public Health, 13, 1116.
McLean, C. P., & Anderson, E. R. (2009). Brave men and timid women? A review of the gender differences in fear and anxiety. Clinical Psychology Review, 29, 496–505.
McQuail, D. (2010). McQuail’s mass communication theory. Sage Publications.
Melki, J., Tamim, H., Hadid, D., Farhat, S., Makki, M., Ghandour, L., & Hitti, E. (2022). Media exposure and health behavior during pandemics: The mediating effect of perceived knowledge and fear on compliance with COVID-19 prevention measures. Health Communication, 37, 586–596.
Neria, Y., DiGrande, L., & Adams, B. G. (2011). Posttraumatic stress disorder following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks: a review of the literature among highly exposed populations. The American Psy-chologist, 66, 429–446.
Nielsen (2020). COVID-19: Tracking the impact on media consumption. The Nielsen Company. Retrieved from
Olagoke, A. A., Olagoke, O. O., & Hughes, A. M. (2020). Exposure to coronavirus news on mainstream media: The role of risk perceptions and depression. British Journal of Health Psychology, 25, 865–874.
Peters, A., McEwen, B. S., & Friston, K. (2017). Uncertainty and stress: Why it causes diseases and how it is mastered by the brain. Progress in Neurobiology, 156, 164–188.
Riehm, K. E., Holingue, C., Kalb, L. G., Bennett, D., Kapteyn, A., Jiang, Q., Veldhuis, C. B., Johnson, R. M., Fallin, M. D., Kreuter, F., Stuart, E. A., & Thrul, J. (2020). Associations between media exposure and mental dis-tress among U.S. adults at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. American Journal of Preventive Medi-cine, 59, 630–638.
Ruggieri, S., Ingoglia, S., Bonfanti, R. C., & Lo Coco, G. (2021). The role of online social comparison as a protective factor for psychological wellbeing: a longitudinal study during the COVID-19 quarantine. Personality and Individual Differences, 171, 110486.
Salvi, C., Iannello, P., Cancer, A., McClay, M., Rago, S., Dunsmoor, J. E., & Antonietti, A. (2020). Going viral: How fear, socio-cognitive polarization and problem-solving influence fake news detection and prolifera-tion during COVID-19 pandemic. Frontiers in Communication, 5, 562588.
Sasaki, N., Kuroda, R., Tsuno, K., & Kawakami, N. (2020). Exposure to media and fear and worry about COVID-19. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 74, 501–502.
Schlenger, W. E., Caddell, J. M., Ebert, L., Jordan, B. K., Rourke, K. M., Wilson, D., Thalji, L., Dennis, J. M., Fair-bank, J. A., & Kulka, R. A. (2002). Psychological reactions to terrorist attacks: Findings from the national study of Americans’ reactions to September 11. JAMA, 288, 581–588.
Schmidt, A., Brose, A., Kramer, A. C., Schmiedek, F., Witthöft, M., & Neubauer, A. B. (2022). Dynamic relations among COVID-19-related media exposure and worries during the COVID-19 pandemic. Psychology & Health, 37, 933–947.
Schuster, M. A., Stein, B. D., Jaycox, L., Collins, R. L., Marshall, G. N., Elliott, M. N., Zhou, A. J., Kanouse, D. E., Morrison, J. L., & Berry, S. H. (2001). A national survey of stress reactions after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The New England Journal of Medicine, 345, 1507–1512.
Silver, R. C., Holman, E. A., Andersen, J. P., Poulin, M., McIntosh, D. N., & Gil-Rivas, V. (2013). Mental- and physical-health effects of acute exposure to media images of the September 11, 2001, attacks and the Iraq war. Psychological Science, 24, 1623–1634.
Stainback, K., Hearne, B. N., & Trieu, M. M. (2020). COVID-19 and the 24/7 news cycle: Does.
COVID-19 news exposure affect mental health? Socius, 6.
Thompson, R. R., Garfin, D. R., Holman, E. A., & Silver, R. C. (2017). Distress, worry, and functioning follow-ing a global health crisis: a national study of Americans’ responses to Ebola. Clinical Psychological Science, 5, 513–521.
Twenge, J. M., McAllister, C., & Joiner, T. E. (2021). Anxiety and depressive symptoms in U.S. Census Bureau assessments of adults: Trends from 2019 to fall 2020 across demographic groups. Journal of Anxiety Dis-orders, 83, 102455.
Valkenburg, P. M., & Peter, J. (2013). Five challenges for the future of media-effects research. International Journal of Communication, 7, 197–215.
van der Vegt, I. V., & Kleinberg, B. (2020). Women worry about family, men about the economy: Gender dif-ferences in emotional responses to COVID-19. In S. Aref, K. Bontcheva, M. Braghieri, F. Dignum, F. Gian-notti, F. Grisolia, & D. Pedreschi (Eds.), Social informatics (pp. 397–409). Springer.
WHO (2021). COVID-19: an informative guide: Advice for journalists. World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe. Retrieved form
Zhao, Q., Sun, X., Xie, F., Chen, B., Wang, L., Hu, L., & Dai, Q. (2021). Impact of COVID-19 on psychological wellbeing. International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology, 21, 100252.
Zillmann, D., Chen, L., Knobloch, S., & Callison, C. (2004). Effects of lead framing on selective exposure to internet news reports. Communication Research, 31, 58–81.