Overwhelmed by the news: A longitudinal study of prior trauma, posttraumatic stress disorder trajectories, and news watching during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Abstract

Rationale: It has been recognized that exposure to mass trauma tends to increase the time spent watching television (TV) news. Yet, research on the effects of this tendency on individuals’ well-being yielded inconclusive findings. Objective: The aim of this longitudinal study is to examine the effects of prior trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on changes in the amount of TV news watching and its effect on subsequent PTSD. More specifically, we examined the interrelations of prior exposure to war captivity, long-term PTSD trajectories, and amount of change TV news watching with PTSD severity during the COVID-19 pandemic, among aging Israeli combat veterans. Methods: One-hundred-and-twenty Israeli ex-prisoners of war (ex-POWs) from 1973 Yom Kippur War and 65 matched controls (combat veterans from the same war) were followed up at five points of time: 1991 (T1), 2003 (T2), 2008 (T3), 2015 (T4), and in April–May 2020 (T5), during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Results: Ex-POWs had higher odds of COVID-19 related increase in TV news watching, which, in turn, contributed to PTSD severity at T5. In addition, delayed PTSD trajectory was associated with COVID-19 related increase in TV news watching, which, in turn, contributed to more severe PTSD at T5. Conclusions: These findings highlight the negative implications of TV news watching during a mass trauma for traumatized individuals. More specifically, they demonstrate its potential pathogenic role in exacerbating prior PTSD among trauma survivors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113956
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume278
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2021

Keywords

  • COVID-19. news watching
  • Ex-prisoners of war
  • PTSD trajectories

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