Background: University and college students are not usually identified as a population at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, there is growing evidence of their specific distress associated with facing multiple abrupt changes and the need for rapid adaptation to a variety of academic, social, and financial challenges. The extent of their exposure to COVID-19 media and the associated media-related stress may further impair students’ perceived coping. Objective: This study assessed COVID-19-related functional difficulties and perceived coping among higher education students in Israel and explored the moderating role played by media coverage of the pandemic in inducing stress and exacerbating COVID-19-related difficulties in perceived coping among students. Method: Data was collected from 7,446 students from seven academic centres in Israel through online questionnaires about four to six weeks after the outbreak of the pandemic in Israel. Results: The findings showed positive associations between COVID-19-related difficulties, media exposure, media-related stress, and decreased levels of perceived coping with the pandemic. Moreover, media-related stress (but not the level of media exposure) moderated the relationship between COVID-19-related difficulties and perceived coping: the associations were significantly stronger for students reporting high media-related stress in comparison to individuals reporting low media-related stress. Conclusions: These results highlight the specific role of media-related stress and the need to distinguish this risk factor from the global impact of exposure to media coverage. The need for self-monitoring of the subjective level of stress associated with media exposure should be part of the psychoeducation efforts provided by public health authorities for promoting self-care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
- media exposure
- perceived coping
- university students