News consumption and its unpleasant side effect: Studying the effect of hard and soft news exposure on mental well-being over time

Mark Boukes*, Rens Vliegenthart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Following the news is generally understood to be crucial for democracy as it allows citizens to politically participate in an informed manner; yet, one may wonder about the unintended side effects it has for the mental well-being of citizens. With news focusing on the negative and worrisome events in the world, framing that evokes a sense of powerlessness, and lack of entertainment value, this study hypothesizes that news consumption decreases mental well-being via negative hedonic experiences; thereby, we differentiate between hard and soft news. Using a panel survey in combination with latent growth curve modeling (n = 2,767), we demonstrate that the consumption of hard news television programs has a negative effect on the development of mental well-being over time. Soft news consumption, by contrast, has a marginally positive impact on the trend in well-being. This can be explained by the differential topic focus, framing and style of soft news vis-à-vis hard news. Investigating the effects of news consumption on mental well-being provides insight into the impact news exposure has on variables other than the political ones which definitively are not less societally relevant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-147
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Media Psychology
Volume29
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Hard versus soft news
  • Hedonic experiences
  • Mental well-being
  • Negativity
  • News consumption

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