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Information seeking, mental health and loneliness: Longitudinal analyses of adults in the UK COVID-19 mental health and wellbeing study

Wilding, Sarah; O'Connor, Daryl B.; Ferguson, Eamonn; Wetherall, Karen; Cleare, Seonaid; O'Carroll, Ronan E.; Robb, Kathryn A.; O'Connor, Rory C.


Sarah Wilding

Daryl B. O'Connor

Professor of Health Psychology

Karen Wetherall

Seonaid Cleare

Ronan E. O'Carroll

Kathryn A. Robb

Rory C. O'Connor


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.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 30, 2022
Online Publication Date Oct 7, 2022
Publication Date Nov 1, 2022
Deposit Date Oct 19, 2022
Publicly Available Date Oct 8, 2023
Journal Psychiatry Research
Print ISSN 0165-1781
Electronic ISSN 1872-7123
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 317
Article Number 114876
Keywords Biological Psychiatry; Psychiatry and Mental health
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