26: Engaging with news media

In this episode Suzi speaks to Tom West, head of operations in one of the University’s institutes, about how he changed how he consumed news, after finding it was impacting on his mental health. This includes an exploration of the evidence around how news can affect us, strategies he found worked for him, and how the COVID-19 pandemic interfered with these.

Some useful links:

Here’s the initial findings from the UCL study Tom mentions
“Increased time spent on following news about COVID 19 predicted declines in mental health and wellbeing”

Which is taken from a whole amazing longitudinal research study, with regular reports on the data along the way: https://www.covidsocialstudy.org/

A couple of articles on why we tend to view the current state of the world more negatively, but view the past through a positive bias, which makes us feel that everything is getting worse, and the role the news plays in this dynamic.


Also, for people who are trying to engage critically with the news in an age of relentless conspiracy theories https://www.snopes.com/ is an excellent fact checking website. It’s quite heavily US-orientated, but it’s a great way to very quickly check whether a wild claim is true, and undertakes some excellent analysis of the origin and spread of certain conspiracy theories (https://www.snopes.com/news/2020/10/15/film-your-hospital-the-anatomy-of-a-covid-19-conspiracy-theory/)