Australians’ news consumption has surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among women and young people, a study from the University of Canberra’s (UC) News and Media Research Centre has shown.
More than 2,100 Australians aged over 18 were surveyed for the study, which found 71% of respondents had increased their news consumption during the pandemic; 70% of Australians are accessing news more than once a day since the virus outbreak, and 60% reported being either very or extremely concerned about the virus, which is driving news consumption.
The report notes big increases in news consumption from both women and young people; despite findings that women are typically less interested in news than men, and young people less so than older generations.
The study found 74% of women, compared to 67% of men, said their news consumption has increased, and 86% of ‘Gen Z’, compared to 74% of people aged over 74.
While news consumption has increased, the study also notes that Australians are tired of news about COVID-19, with some avoiding it due to “news fatigue”.
The study’s lead author, Associate Professor in Communication Sora Park, said the news coverage is impacting on people’s wellbeing.
“We found that while news about the coronavirus provides an important topic of conversation, it is also making 52% of respondents feel more anxious,” Dr Park said.
“Women are more likely to feel an increase in anxiety because of COVID-19 news than men, and compared to older generations, Gen Y and Gen Z are more likely to say news about the coronavirus makes them feel more anxious.”
The study also looked at the trustworthiness of news media in Australia, with the Australian Government, scientists and health officials looked upon favourably for informing the public, while nearly 40% of respondents were inclined to think the news and social media are exaggerating claims about the virus and its impacts. Despite this, general trust in the media has risen, up from 44% in 2019 to 53% in 2020.
Half of Australians (51%) are also now using TV as their main source of news about the virus, up from the Centre’s survey results last year which showed 42% relied on TV as their main source of news.