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Funny memes can help people cope with stress of Covid pandemic, study claims 

Internet memes are meant to be humorous but they may also have another positive effect – helping us cope with pandemic stress, according to a new study.

A study of nearly 800 Americans found that those who looked at memes compared to other types of media reported higher levels of positive emotions, such as being relaxed and cheerful.

And people who saw memes that mentioned the coronavirus were more likely to have lower stress levels about the pandemic than people who viewed memes without Covid-related captions, the study found.

Lead author Professor Jessica Gall Myrick, from Pennsylvania State University, said: 'As the pandemic kept dragging on, it became more and more interesting to me how people were using social media, and memes in particular, as a way to think about the pandemic.

'We found that viewing just three memes can help people cope with the stress of living during a global pandemic.'

A swath of studies have laid bare the impact of the Covid crisis on people's mental health, suggesting stress and anxiety are at record highs.

The study involved showing participants three randomly selected memes from a pool of 112 (including the two above) and measuring their moods afterwards

Stress soars among young adults and parents

The pandemic has taken a devastating toll on the mental health of the nation, two studies revealed yesterday.

A total of 41 per cent of 16 to 25-year-olds say they 'always' or 'often' feel down. The figures increase among those who are not in work, the Prince's Trust and Tesco Youth Index reveals.

A separate study led by Oxford University shows parents' mental health has suffered as they have become 'spread thin' during lockdown.

Those who aren't in education, employment or training, the so-called 'Neets', are significantly more likely to feel anxious and depressed.

One in four admit they feel 'unable to cope with life' since the start of the pandemic, increasing to 40 per cent among Neets.

Jonathan Townsend of the Prince's Trust said: 'Young people face a disrupted education, a shrinking jobs market and isolation from their friends and loved ones, and as a result, too many are losing all hope for the future.'

Some were then shown three randomly selected memes, while others looked at control conditions with plain text and no images.

After viewing the media, people were asked to rate what they had seen based on the humour and cuteness.

They were also asked about their levels of anxiety and positive emotions such as calmness, relaxation and cheer, and how much it caused them to think about other information they knew about Covid.

Researchers noticed that those who viewed memes compared with other types of media reported higher levels of humour and more positive emotions.

People who saw memes with captions related to coronavirus were even more likely to have lower stress levels about the pandemic than people who viewed memes without Covid-related captions, the study authors claimed.

Professor Myrick said: 'While the World Health Organisation recommended that people avoid too much Covid-related media for the benefit of their mental health, our research reveals that memes about Covid could help people feel more confident in their ability to deal with the pandemic.

'This suggests that not all media are uniformly bad for mental health and people should stop and take stock of what type of media they are consuming.

'If we are all more conscious of how our behaviours, including time spent scrolling, affect our emotional states, then we will better be able to use social media to help us when we need it and to take a break from it when we need that instead.'