Doomscrolling young man, sitting outside on a wall

How visual news from Ukraine affects our psyche

Ever found yourself spending an excessive amount of screen time devoted to the absorption of negative news? You’re not the only one doom scrolling. The unfolding pandemic, climate change and more recently the war in Ukraine have made it easy to get caught in doom scrolling behavior. And as this habit is becoming more commonplace, there is also more research being done on the effects of doom scrolling on our mental health. And it’s not sounding good.

The consumption of negative news is found to make people feel anxious, stressed, fearful, depressed, and isolated. In an experiment, people would either watch a negative, neutral, or positive tv bulletin. The people that watched a negative segment reported feeling more anxious and sad afterwards. Cecille Ahrens, clinical director of Transcend Therapy says these feelings of fear, sadness and anger triggered by negative headlines can keep people stuck in a “pattern of frequent monitoring,” leading to worse moods and more anxious scrolling.

Unsurprisingly, young people are hit the hardest by the effects of doom scrolling. First of all, they are more likely to constantly visit visual social media. This provides two amplifiers to the mental effect of doom scrolling; it is visual and repetitive. Visual images have a stronger emotional impact regarding negative news and constant repetition functions as a mechanism to constantly keep these negative events top of mind. Secondly, problems like climate change are naturally expected to have a much larger impact on the lives of Generation Z, compared to babyboomers. That is why it might not come as a surprise that over half of young people (16-25 years old) in a survey of 10,000 in 2021 say they think humanity is doomed. Partly as a result of that, 45% of them say climate anxiety is affecting their daily lives and ability to function. w