Fake news during the war in Ukraine: coping strategies and fear of war in the general population of Romania and in aid workers.Front Psychol. 2023; 14:1151794.FP
In addition to the health crisis that erupted during the COVID-19 pandemic, the war between Russia and Ukraine is impacting the mental health and wellbeing of the Romanian population in a negative way.
This study sets out to investigate the impact that social media consumption and an overload of information related to the armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine is having on the distribution of fake news among Romanians. In addition, it explores the way in which several psychological features, including resilience, general health, perceived stress, coping strategies, and fear of war, change as a function of exposure to traumatic events or interaction with victims of war.
Participants (N = 633) completed the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ), the CERQ scale with its nine subscales, the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), and the BRS scale (Brief Resilience Scale), the last of which measures resilience. Information overload, information strain and the likelihood of the person concerned spreading fake news were assessed by adapting items related to these variables.
Our results suggest that information strain partially moderates the relationship between information overload and the tendency to spread false information. Also, they indicate that information strain partially moderates the relationship between time spent online and the tendency to spread false information. Furthermore, our findings imply that there are differences of high and moderate significance between those who worked with refugees and those who did not as regards fear of war and coping strategies. We found no practical differences between the two groups as regards general health, level of resilience and perceived stress.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The importance of discovering the reasons why people share false information is discussed, as is the need to adopt strategies to combat this behavior, including infographics and games designed to teach people how to detect fake news. At the same time, aid workers need to be further supported to maintain a high level of psychological wellbeing.