Bad news is never fun to hear, so when it’s played on television 24/7, it’s bound to have a negative effect on you. And that’s exactly what was found in a national survey conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health. Out of 2500 people, one in four said they experienced a great deal of stress in the past month, and one of the biggest causes was watching, reading, or hearing the news.
This definitely isn’t the first research of its kind, as Mary McNaughton-Cassill, a psychologist at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and other researchers have done studies showing that some kinds of news coverage can produce stress responses. McNaughton-Cassill says that the biggest stress contributor comes from sensational news coverage of traumatic events. As she says, ”There is so much more news available, and so many different channels that are competing, that they’re trying harder to be sensational.” If you’ve seen Fox News even once, then you know what she’s talking about.
The immediate availability of disturbing images is also a factor in producing stress, as McNaughton-Cassill gives the example that during the Civil War, media outlets relied on line drawings that could take weeks to reach people. “And now, of course, we’ve got the reporter there waiting to see where the bomb hits,” she states. Plus, if you flip through news channels during a traumatic event, you know that most of them are repeating the same clips and disturbing images over and over again, which can clearly compound your stress levels.
Perhaps most interestingly, this repetition of negative imagery can produce post-traumatic stress symptoms that are stronger than those of someone who was actually present at the traumatic event. Speaking about a study analyzing people’s responses to the Boston Marathon bombing, Professor Alison Holman of the University of California, Irvine says that, ”people who exposed themselves to six or more hours of media daily actually reported more acute stress symptoms than did people who were directly exposed — meaning they were at the site of the bombings.”
As important as it is to know what’s going on in the world, it’s not in your best interest to be constantly exposed to bad news. Plus too much stress is bad for your sex life, so there’s an immediate reason to ease up on the news and de-stress yourself.