The relationship of COVID-19 related stress and media consumption with schizotypy, depression and anxiety


Studies report a strong impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and related stressors on the mental wellbeing of general population. In this paper, we investigated whether COVID-19 related concerns and social adversity affected schizotypal traits, anxiety and depression using structural equational modelling. In mediation analyses, we furthermore explored whether these associations were mediated by healthy (sleep and physical exercise) or unhealthy behaviours (drug and alcohol consumption, excessive media use). We assessed schizotypy, depression and anxiety as well as, healthy and unhealthy behaviours and a wide range of sociodemographic scores using online surveys from residents of Germany and the United Kingdom over one year during the COVID-19 pandemic. Four independent samples were collected (April/ May 2020: N=781, September/ October 2020: N=498, January/ February 2021: N=544, May 2021: N= 486). The results revealed that COVID-19 related life concerns were significantly associated with schizotypy in the autumn 2020 and spring 2021 surveys, and with anxiety and depressive symptoms in all surveys; and social adversity significantly affected the expression of schizotypal traits in all but the spring 2020 survey, and depressive and anxiety symptoms in all samples. Importantly, we found that excessive media consumption (>4h per day) fully mediated the relationship of COVID-19 related life concerns and schizotypal traits in the winter 2021 survey. Furthermore, several of the surveys showed that excessive media consumption was associated with increased depressive and anxiety- related symptoms in people burdened by COVID-19 related life. The ongoing uncertainties of the pandemic and the restrictions on social life have a strong impact on mental well-being and especially the expression of schizotypal traits. The negative impact is further boosted by excessive media consumption, which is especially critical for people with high schizotypal traits.