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Britons actively avoiding the news, study shows

By ANGUS McNEICE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-06-03 10:16

A text message sent from the British government across the UK stating the new rules that are now in force that people must stay at home to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is seen on a mobile phone in London, Britain, March 25, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Some respondents say they switch off due to its negative effect on their mood

People in the United Kingdom are increasingly avoiding news about COVID-19 as it impacts their mental well-being, according to new research.

The survey, which was designed by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University, also found that a large number of people feel that they cannot trust news about the pandemic.

This was the third of 10 surveys the Reuters Institute is conducting every two weeks to gauge public attitudes toward the media during the COVID-19 crisis.

The earlier surveys recorded an initial uptick in news consumption as the pandemic took hold, followed by a notable increase in news avoidance in mid-May when the third survey was out in the field.

In the most recent survey, 22 percent of respondents said they often or always actively try to avoid news, up from 15 percent in mid-April, while 59 percent of people said they sometimes actively avoid the news, up from 49 percent.

The majority-86 percent-of those who always or often avoid news say they are trying to avoid COVID-19 news at least some of the time, and most of them-66 percent-said they are primarily worried about the effect it has on their mood. One-third said they feel there is too much news, and 28 percent say they avoid news because they feel there is not anything they can do with the information.

In written responses, one participant said the news "currently makes me feel incredibly stressed "and another said "I am bombarded with negative news". One-third of respondents said they avoid news because they do not trust it.

The report was authored by Rasmus Kleis Nielsen and Richard Fletcher of the Reuters Institute and Antonis Kalogeropoulos, a lecturer in communication and the media at the University of Liverpool.

"News plays an important role in helping people navigate the coronavirus crisis," the authors stated. "It can help people understand the virus, stay across how governments and other institutions are responding to the crisis, and provides independent information about, and perspectives on, how the situation is developing."

The third survey was in the field from May 7 to May 13, when hospital deaths in the UK due to COVID-19 grew from 30,076 to 32,692.

At this time there was heavy media coverage of the fact that the UK had the highest death toll in Europe due to the crisis. Some detractors said the government was vague and imprecise in its announcements on the easing of lockdown measures on May 10.

In the survey, 20 percent of respondents said they thought the UK was on the "wrong track", up from 10 percent in mid-April. The picture was mixed for 45 percent of respondents, while 30 percent said the UK was on the right track, down from 35 percent.

The third survey of 1,973 respondents was fielded by data company YouGov and is representative of the UK population.

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