Is Constantly Reading Bad News Ruining Your Life?


Here’s a new thing to get frothy over: a new study shows that women who read depressing news stories get much more worked up about it, and they stay stressed out about it for much longer than their male counterparts. In fact, reading stuff that stresses you out might spill into and negatively impact other areas in your life, not to mention linger in your brain for longer, thus putting you at greater risk for PTSD. IN OTHER WORDS, YOU SHOULD PROBABLY GO OUTSIDE AND TAKE A WALK.

The study divided its subjects into two groups — people who were given depressing or “bad” news stories to read, and people who were given non-depressing news stories to read. In the good news group, everything was copacetic. In the bad news group, researchers found that both women and men react to reading negativity by experiencing elevated levels of cortisol (or the fight or flight fear juice that the body produces in response to stress). But men seem to be able to shake earlier stress off more easily than the ladies. From the Los Angeles Times,

Shortly after the participants’ news-reading session, all were put into a stressful situation: with their judges behind a one-way mirror, each participant was asked to present his case for a job interview, and then to do some mental arithmetic under time pressure.
It was then that the reactions of men and women reading negative news diverged: The women on average responded to the experimental challenge with more elevated levels of stress, as measured by the cortisol levels in their saliva, than did the men. Men reading negative news did react with greater stress to the challenge than did men who read neutral news. But for women, the trend was much more pronounced.

Which maybe explains why I burst into tears when I broke a dish the other day.

Researchers advise that people refrain from running amok with these findings and declaring women to be delicate flowers that must be protected from stressful uterus squashing news; the sample size on the study was very small, and besides, some evidence suggests that women’s hyperreactivity to bad news might actually serve their memories well. When researchers spoke to both study participants the following day, they found that the bad news group did a better job remembering what they’d read than the good news group. And the women who read bad news had the best memory of all.

So, the moral of the story? Filling your brain with painful facts might stress you out, and we know that stress can lead to EARLY DEATH, but on the other hand, constantly having 15 news articles about rape open in tabs on your internet browser might be making you smarter. Or, at least, a more accurate Debbie Downer.


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