People who have an obsessive urge to constantly check the news headlines will have problems with stress, anxiety, and physical ill health, finds a fresh study published in the peer-reviewed journal Health Communication.
Over the last two years we’ve lived by way of a group of worrying global events, from the COVID pandemic to Russia invading Ukraine, large-scale protests, mass shootings and devastating wildfires. For most people, reading bad news could make us feel temporarily powerless and distressed.
For others, exposure to a 24-hour news cycle of continually evolving events might have serious impacts on mental and physical well-beingas these new findings, out today, show, with anyone who has a high-levels of news addiction reporting “significantly greater physical ill-being.”
“Witnessing these events unfold in the news headlines can result in a continuing state of high alert in a few people, kicking their surveillance motives into overdrive and making the planet look like a dark and dangerous place,” says Bryan McLaughlin, associate professor of advertising at the faculty of Media and Communication at Texas Tech University.
“For they, a vicious cycle can form, in which instead of tuning out, they become drawn further in, obsessing on the news and checking for updates night and day to ease their emotional distress. Nonetheless it doesn’t help, and the more they check the news headlines, the more it begins to hinder other areas of their lives.”
To review this phenomenon, known colloquially as news addiction, McLaughlin and his colleagues, Dr. Melissa Gotlieb and Dr. Devin Mills, analyzed data from an paid survey of just one 1,100 US adults.
In the survey, individuals were asked about the extent to that they agreed with statements like “I become so absorbed in the news that I your investment world around me,” “my mind is generally occupied with thoughts concerning the news,” “I find it hard to stop reading or watching the news,” and “I often usually do not give consideration at school or work because I’m reading or watching the news headlines.”
Respondents were also asked about how exactly often they experienced feelings of anxiety and stress, along with physical ailments such as for example fatigue, physical pain, poor concentration, and gastrointestinal issues.
The outcomes revealed that 16.5% of individuals surveyed showed signs of “severely problematic” news consumption. Such individuals frequently became so immersed and personally committed to news stories that the stories dominated the individual’s waking thoughts, disrupted time with friends and family, managed to get difficult to spotlight school or work, and contributed to restlessness and an inability to sleep.
Not surprisingly, people who have higher degrees of problematic news consumption were a lot more more likely to experience mental and physical ill-being than people that have lower levels, even though controlling for demographics, personality traits, and overall news use.
When asked how frequently survey participants experienced mental health or physical illness symptoms in the last month, results show:
- 73.6% of these proven to have severe degrees of problematic news consumption reported experiencing mental ill-being “a lot” or “quite definitely”while frequent symptoms were only reported by 8% of most other study participants.
- 61% of these with severe degrees of problematic news reported experiencing physical ill-being “a lot” or “quite definitely” in comparison to only 6.1% for several other study participants.
In accordance with McLaughlin, the findings show that there surely is a dependence on focused media literacy campaigns to greatly help people create a healthier relationship with the news headlines.
“While we wish visitors to remain engaged in the news headlines, it’s important they have a wholesome relationship with the news headlines,” he says.
“Generally, treatment for addictions and compulsive behaviors centers around complete cessation of the problematic behavior, as possible difficult to execute the behavior in moderation.
“Regarding problematic news consumption, research shows that individuals should stop, or at the very least dramatically reduce their news consumption should they perceive it really is having undesireable effects on the mental health.
“For instance, previous research shows that folks who became alert to and worried about the undesireable effects that their constant focus on sensationalized coverage of COVID-19 was wearing their mental health reported making the conscious decision to tune out.
“However, not merely does tuning out come at the trouble of a person’s access to important info for their safe practices, in addition, it undermines the existence of the best citizenry, which includes implications for maintaining a wholesome democracy. For this reason a wholesome relationship with news consumption can be an ideal situation.”
Furthermore, the analysis also calls out the necessity for a wider discussion about how exactly the news headlines industry could be fueling the issue.
“The economic pressures facing outlets, in conjunction with technological advances and the 24-hour news cycle, have encouraged journalists to spotlight selecting ‘newsworthy’ stories which will grab news consumers’ attention,” says McLaughlin.
“However, for several forms of people, the conflict and drama that characterize newsworthy stories not merely grab their attention and draw them in, but additionally can result in a maladaptive relationship with the news headlines. Thus, the outcomes of our study emphasize that the commercial pressures that press face aren’t just bad for the purpose of maintaining a wholesome democracy, in addition they may be bad for individuals’ health.”
Limitations of the study include reliance on a data collected at one time, where in fact the authors cannot establish the precise relationship between problematic news consumption and mental and physical ill-being.
More info: Caught in a Dangerous World: Problematic News Consumption and its own Relationship to Mental and Physical Ill-Being, Health Communication (2022). DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2022.2106086
Citation: News addiction is associated with not merely poor mental well-being but physical health too, new study shows (2022, August 24) retrieved 24 August 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-08-news-addiction-linked-poor-mental.html
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