Teens with COVID-19 knowledge reported better well-being

A pandemic survey found that adolescents who answered more COVID-19 test questions correctly also reported lower stress, anxiety and depression as well as lower loneliness and fear of missing out, also known as FOMO.

For the study, published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies, Washington State University researchers surveyed 215 teens ages 14-17 across the U.S. in July 2020 during the early months of the pandemic.

“Knowledge was a good thing. The teens who did better on our quiz tended to report lower depression, anxiety and stress — just across the board,” said corresponding author Chris Barry, a WSU psychology professor. “This is a one-time snapshot, so we don’t really know cause and effect, but one presumption is that having accurate information was connected to feeling a little bit more ease during that time.”

Barry and co-authors Zeinab Mousavi and Brianna Halter had participants first answer true or false questions about COVID-19, such as the ways that the virus spreads and its health risks. While there were some low scores on the test, the majority of the participants did well with an average score of 15 out of 18 correct, and 21.9% got all the answers correct. The participants then answered a range of questions about their well-being as well as their social media use.

While nearly all the teens, 98.1%, used social media in some form, those who had good COVID-19 knowledge and checked social media less frequently also reported the lowest levels of anxiety.

While it is difficult to know the reason behind this connection, the researchers said that one possibility was that teens with less accurate COVID-19 knowledge might have used social media more to find answers and in the process, absorbed more misinformation which contributed to their anxiety.

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