Mental health consequences of COVID-19 media coverage: the need for effective crisis communication practices

Zhaohui Su, Dean McDonnell, Jun Wen, Metin Kozak, Jaffar Abbas, Sabina Šegalo, Xiaoshan Li, Junaid Ahmad, Ali Cheshmehzangi, Yuyang Cai, Ling Yang, Yu Tao Xiang

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

258 Citations (Scopus)


During global pandemics, such as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), crisis communication is indispensable in dispelling fears, uncertainty, and unifying individuals worldwide in a collective fight against health threats. Inadequate crisis communication can bring dire personal and economic consequences. Mounting research shows that seemingly endless newsfeeds related to COVID-19 infection and death rates could considerably increase the risk of mental health problems. Unfortunately, media reports that include infodemics regarding the influence of COVID-19 on mental health may be a source of the adverse psychological effects on individuals. Owing partially to insufficient crisis communication practices, media and news organizations across the globe have played minimal roles in battling COVID-19 infodemics. Common refrains include raging QAnon conspiracies, a false and misleading “Chinese virus” narrative, and the use of disinfectants to “cure” COVID-19. With the potential to deteriorate mental health, infodemics fueled by a kaleidoscopic range of misinformation can be dangerous. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of research on how to improve crisis communication across media and news organization channels. This paper identifies ways that legacy media reports on COVID-19 and how social media-based infodemics can result in mental health concerns. This paper discusses possible crisis communication solutions that media and news organizations can adopt to mitigate the negative influences of COVID-19 related news on mental health. Emphasizing the need for global media entities to forge a fact-based, person-centered, and collaborative response to COVID-19 reporting, this paper encourages media resources to focus on the core issue of how to slow or stop COVID-19 transmission effectively.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
JournalGlobalization and Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Coronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Crisis communication
  • Disinformation
  • Infodemic
  • Mental health
  • Misinformation


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