COVID-19 information exposure in digital media and implications for employees in the health care sector: findings from an online survey

Paulo Rodrigo Bazán Raymundo Machado de Azevedo Neto Julia Abou Dias Vanessa Gil Salvatierra Liana Guerra Sanches Shirley Silva Lacerda Edson Amaro Junior Elisa Harumi Kozasa Joana Bisol Balardin About the authors

ABSTRACT

Objective:

To estimate coronavirus disease 2019-related information consumption and related implications for health care professionals (medical and nonmedical personnel) during the pandemic.

Methods:

A cross-sectional on-line survey was distributed to employees of a major health care institution located in São Paulo, Brazil between April 3 and April 10, 2020. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics.

Results:

The sample comprised 2,646 respondents. Most participants (44.4%) reported excessive or almost excessive access to information about the novel coronavirus and 67.6% reported having increased their average time spent on social media. When asked how frequently they consider it was easy to determine the reliability of information, “sometimes” corresponded to 43.2% of the answers in contrast to 14.6% responding “always”. Answers related to potential signs of information overload associated with the pandemic indicated that 31% of respondents felt stressed by the amount of information they had to keep up with almost every day or always. Overall, 80.0% of respondents reported having experienced at least one of the following symptoms: headache, eye twitching, restlessness or sleeping difficulty. The frequency of symptoms was higher among participants with a more negative information processing style regarding when dealing with large volumes of information relative to those with a positive information processing style. Likewise, symptoms were more frequently reported by participants who had increased their social media access relative to those reporting reduced access during the pandemic.

Conclusion:

Our survey provides a description of how health professionals consume COVID-19 related information during the pandemic, and suggests that excessive information exposure and high processing demands may impose psychological distress and affect mental health.

Keywords:
COVID-19; Coronavirus infections; Social media; Information seeking behavior; Psychological distress; Cross-sectional studies; Survey and questionnaires

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