Latin American perceptions of fear and exaggeration transmitted by the media with regard to COVID-19: frequency and association with severe mental pathologies

Christian R. Mejia, Telmo Raul Aveiro-Róbalo, Luciana Daniela Garlisi Torales, Verónica Alejandra Alejandra Castro Hidalgo, Jhino Valeriano, David Alfonso Ibarra-Montenegro, Aram Conde-Escobar, Fernanda Sánchez-Soto, Yuliana Canaviri-Murillo, María Oliva-Ponce, Victor Serna-Alarcón, Martín A. Vilela-Estrada, Dennis Arias-Chávez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the spread of abundant misinformation by the media, which caused fear and concern. Objective: To determine the association between the pathologies of the mental sphere and the perceptions of fear and exaggeration transmitted by the media with respect to COVID-19 in Latin America. Methodology: The present study has an analytical cross-sectional design that is based on a validated survey to measure fear and exaggeration transmitted by the media and other sources (Cronbach's α: 0.90). We surveyed more than 6,000 people, originally from 12 Latin American countries, who associated this perceived exaggeration with stress, depression, and anxiety (measured through DASS-21, Cronbach's α: 0.96). Results: Social networks (40%) or television (34%) were perceived as the sources that exaggerate the magnitude of the events. In addition, television (35%) and social networks (28%) were perceived as the sources that generate much fear. On the contrary, physicians and health personnel are the sources that exaggerated less (10%) or provoked less fear (14%). Through a multivariate model, we found a higher level of global perception that was associated with whether the participant was older (p = 0.002), had severe or more serious anxiety (p = 0.033), or had stress (p = 0,037). However, in comparison with Peru (the most affected country), there was a lower level of perception in Chile (p < 0.001), Paraguay (p = 0.001), Mexico (p < 0.001), Ecuador (p = 0.001), and Costa Rica (p = 0.042). All of them were adjusted for gender and for those having severe or major depression. Conclusion: There exists an association between some mental pathologies and the perception that the media does not provide moderate information.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1037450
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume14
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2023 Mejia, Aveiro-Róbalo, Garlisi Torales, Castro Hidalgo, Valeriano, Ibarra-Montenegro, Conde-Escobar, Sánchez-Soto, Canaviri-Murillo, Oliva-Ponce, Serna-Alarcón, Vilela-Estrada and Arias-Chávez.

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Latin America
  • fear
  • media
  • mental health
  • pandemic

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