Fake News: The Problem of Disinformation and Mental Health

BY: Neighbors’ Consejo|

The “information age” has brought various successes and problems, one of them being fake news, which spreads so quickly that it mostly prevents them from being investigated by those who consume them, mainly on social networks. Do we know the effect that this phenomenon has on our mental health?

Surely we have been victims of Fake News, but we have control over whether or not to spread them further. Well, now we can all be journalists, because if we have a mobile device, or a computer and Wi-Fi, we already have all the tools to tell what happens instantly, no matter where we are in the world.

As explained by Vasilis K. Pozios, MD, a forensic psychiatrist and co- founder of mental health and media consultancy, Broadcast Thought [1] , ever since fake news appeared, those who spread them have had the emotional control of managing to manipulate the public opinion of those who consume them, causing feelings such as anger, anxiety, depression or even confused thoughts about reality.

One of the news that has caused the greatest stir and therefore has generated confusion in people around the world has been COVID-19, and without a doubt, it serves to exemplify not only the impact on physical and mental health but also on the misinformation that has revolved around it. According to Psychiatric Times [2] : “Media pollution, which can intensify anxiety, concern, insecurity, and frustration, as well as contribute to unsuccessful therapies, noncompliance with preventive measures, discrimination, and stigma, is inextricably linked to misinformation and false news. In this perspective, the media is viewed as a double-edged sword: it may either contribute to the misinformation load or contribute to health awareness and collaboration.”

However, not everything is bad if we know how to use social networks in a good way and we direct the information correctly. This was done very well by Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry Jeremy Tyler [3] , PsyD, who condensed feelings such as sadness, frustration, and sleep problems, among others caused by Fake News through the use of #MentalHealth in the Tik Tok social network, which has over 18 billion views of the hashtag.

The problem is not recent. We can see how in December 2016, around the political context of former President Obama, Pew Research Center [4]  published an article where they stated: “Majority say fake news has left Americans confused about basic facts”, there was evidence that 64% had a great deal of confusion, 24% some and 11% not much. In addition, the survey showed that the people who spread the most false news were 43% members of the public, 45% politicians and 42% social networking sites.

How to combat Fake News to have a better emotional well-being? Think before you share, verify, install B.S. Detector if you can, help debunk fake news, rethink your news diet, compare news, ask for an explanation if you don’t understand something, if you feel afraid of a piece of news, go to a reliable source [5] .


 [1] https://www.psycom.net/iwar.1.html

 [2] https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/media-mental-health-the-need-for-more-credible-information

 [3] https://www.pennmedicine.org/news/news-blog/2021/october/managing-mental-health-misinformation-on-social-media

 [4] https://www.pewresearch.org/journalism/2016/12/15/many-americans-believe-fake-news-is-sowing-confusion/

 [5] https://libguides.lmu.edu/c.php?g=595781&p=4121899

Leave a Reply