2021 News Wellness Study: 9 Stats Around How We Consume News 

by Anum Hussain in May 26th, 2021

Whether in VC chats, focus groups, or casual networking conversations, we've heard time and time again that people no longer pay attention to the news because "it's too depressing." But not everyone wants to make this choice, or even can when a headline directly impacts their livelihood.

In fact, when asked why their news reading increased over the past year, one reader said: "Worried about myself, my family, my community, my country!"

So the question then becomes, how do we continue to stay informed while keeping our own wellness in mind? While we tackle this question in our guide to defining and practicing News Wellness, this post takes a look at our latest findings from adult news readers of Below the Fold.

Before we get into the main findings, here's a little about the readers who filled out our survey:

  • 40% of respondents were female, 36% male, and 3% prefer not to say
  • The majority of respondents were 25-34 (49%) followed by 55+ (20%)
  • Readers responded from all over the world, with the most responses from within the U.S.

With that, let's dig in!

News Consumption’s Impact on Stress

1) 82% of readers agree that news is stressful.

We asked consumers if they agree with the following statement: News is stressful.

  • 41% strongly agree, up from 22% in 2020
  • 82% overall agree, up from 76% in 2020
  • 2% strongly disagree

So not only is news stressful, but it has been even more so this year.

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2) Readers' stress levels seem to increase when consuming news. 

When we asked people to rate their stress levels from 1 to 10 (with 1 being the least stressful and 10 being the most stressful) throughout the day, 25% rank stress at 5.5 out of 10. But when asked to rate their stress levels when consuming news, 23% rank their stress higher at 8 out 10. 

3) 32% of readers said a news headline stresses them out multiple times a day.

Overall, the majority of respondents were stressed by news at least once a week, with 32% getting stressed multiple times a day and 17% once a day.

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COVID-19 News Consumption

4) 68% of people say their news consumption has increased since the pandemic-influenced quarantine.

As many spent more time at home in 2020 due to the coronavirus, 68% of people report an increase in their news consumption habits. The other 17% of readers say their news consumption is the same while 15% say their news consumption is lower. This is more than last year's survey — taken around the same — in which only 11% said the pandemic decreased their consumption.

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5) Fewer people are checking for coronavirus updates every day.

Last year, 59% of readers said they were checking for pandemic updates once a day while 6% checked once per hour. Now, only 30% of readers are checking once a day and 0% are checking every hour. Most readers shifted to checking COVID updates once a week, sharing specifically...

  • "At first it increased, but after a year of news dominated by COVID stories, I have been slowly reading less and less news."
  • "I felt like it was just the same stories over and over again."
  • "I shifted to learning other things."

General News Consumption

6) More people are consuming news from newsletters.

There are more available channels for news consumption than ever before. In our survey we asked people to select all of their avenues of normal news consumption

The most common channel was newsletters (89%), but online articles are a close second (74%). Last year, the top two were articles and social media, showing a shift in where people are consuming their news as newsletter become more prominent (like ours!).

In fact, when asked, "What most often leads you to reading the news?," the majority (55%) said it's because they received a newsletter in their inbox.

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7) 92% of readers spend up to three hours a day consuming news.

This is exactly the same as our last study. Almost 44% spend up to an hour, 49% read for 2-3 hours a day, and 8% read the most at 4-6 hours per day.

The majority (70%) also said they generally like reading the news in the morning.

8) Almost everyone cares about being informed.

98% of people agree it is important to stay informed. And that’s why at Below the Fold, we prioritize healthful news experiences. It’s especially important right now, as we deal with a multitude of issues worldwide.

The majority (82%) believe they have the necessary tools to stay informed.

Of that, 42% strongly agree and 39% somewhat agree. The remaining 18% are neutral or disagree.

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9) 88% of people read the news because they either love being informed or have a duty to be.

When asked why they read the news, we heard that...

  • 52% of readers said they have a duty to be informed
  • 36% simply love being informed
  • And 6% said it was their job
  • A rare few said they hate being the last to know, don't want to be ignorant, or just want to be able to talk to their peers about the news.
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