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

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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