The COVID-19 pandemic has been disastrous to many individuals’ daily lives, and to keep themselves informed during the pandemic, they have relied on reading news. Different types of news reports about COVID-19 impact how people perceive the ongoing situation. Positive news may bring readers optimism, whereas negative news may lead them to feel anxious and depressed about the pandemic situation, as well as to feel more empathetic towards others. This study investigated the role of types of news reporting on individuals’ anxiety, depression and empathy levels. Participants read four news articles that were manipulated by the type of news reporting (positive vs. negative) and geographical proximity (international vs. national). Individuals (N = 90) living in the US above the age of 18 volunteered to participate in the study, and 25 incomplete responses were excluded. Before reading the news articles, participants showed moderate-to-severe levels of anxiety (M = 3.78, SD = 0.57) and moderate levels of depression (M = 3.48, SD = 1.29). Anxiety levels were higher after participants read negative news than positive news. Participants showed higher levels of anxiety and empathy following international events than national events. They did not show any significant difference for depression despite manipulating the type of news reporting or geographical proximity. This study has shown that anxiety and depression have been common mental health problems that many people experience, and this pandemic has made some people to become more empathetic regardless of their identification with specific identity.


Michelle Colvin




Clinical Psychology | Counseling Psychology | Psychology | Social Psychology


anxiety, depression, empathy, social representation, news media

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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