Exposure to COVID-19-Related Information and its Association With Mental Health Problems in Thailand: Nationwide, Cross-sectional Survey Study.J Med Internet Res. 2021 02 12; 23(2):e25363.JM
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on both the physical and mental health of individuals worldwide. Evidence regarding the association between mental health problems and information exposure among Thai citizens during the COVID-19 outbreak is limited.
This study aimed to explore the relationship between information exposure and mental health problems during the COVID-19 pandemic in Thailand.
Between April 21 and May 4, 2020, we conducted a cross-sectional, nationwide online survey of the general population in Thailand. We categorized the duration of exposure to COVID-19-related information as follows: <1 h/day (reference group), 1-2 h/day, and ≥3 h/day. Mental health outcomes were assessed using the Patient Health Questionnaire-9, the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 scale, the Perceived Stress Scale-10, and the Insomnia Severity Index for symptoms of depression, anxiety, perceived stress, and insomnia, respectively. Multivariable logistic regression models were used to evaluate the relationship between information exposure and the risk of developing the aforementioned symptoms. An ancillary analysis using multivariable multinomial logistic regression models was also conducted to assess the possible dose-response relationship across the severity strata of mental health problems.
Of the 4322 eligible participants, 4004 (92.6%) completed the online survey. Of them, 1481 (37.0%), 1644 (41.1%), and 879 (22.0%) participants were exposed to COVID-19-related information for less than 1 hour per day, 1 to 2 hours per day, or 3 or more hours per day, respectively. The major source of information related to the COVID-19 pandemic was social media (95.3%), followed by traditional media (68.7%) and family members (34.9%). Those exposed to information for 3 or more hours per day had a higher risk of developing symptoms of depression (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 1.35, 95% CI 1.03-1.76; P=.03), anxiety (adjusted OR 1.88, 95% CI 1.43-2.46; P<.001), and insomnia (adjusted OR 1.52, 95% CI 1.17-1.97; P=.001) than people exposed to information for less than 1 hour per day. Meanwhile, people exposed to information for 1 to 2 hours per day were only at risk of developing symptoms of anxiety (adjusted OR 1.35, 95% CI 1.08-1.69; P=.008). However, no association was found between information exposure and the risk of perceived stress. In the ancillary analysis, a dose-response relationship was observed between information exposure of 3 or more hours per day and the severity of mental health problems.
These findings suggest that social media is the main source of COVID-19-related information. Moreover, people who are exposed to information for 3 or more hours per day are more likely to develop psychological problems, including depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Longitudinal studies investigating the long-term effects of COVID-19-related information exposure on mental health are warranted.