We are frequently faced with a barrage of negativity in news media. Whether it’s due to media sensationalizing news or our ever-increasing connectivity to the media, it can feel like there is no end to bad politics, natural disasters, and crime, violence and accidents around the world. So, what is the impact of such constant negative news on our mental health and well-being?
Research shows that viewers of negative news were at a higher risk for increased stress, anxiety and sadness compared to viewers of positive or neutral news. The effects were also found to permeate people’s everyday lives, with viewers of negative news being more likely to catastrophize their own personal worries and concerns. That is, they were more likely to make “mountains out of molehills” in their day-to-day lives. Some people were also found to suffer from compassion fatigue- which means they were becoming desensitized to the plight of others – from repeated exposure to distressing news. In extreme cases, predisposed individuals (for example, those with pre-existing mental illness) were found to display post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) like symptoms by viewing traumatic images in the media.
How can you try to mitigate some of these negative effects of media, while remaining up to date with what’s happening in the world around you? Here are some tips:
- Filter out the negative news in favor of positive or constructive news. You can do this by subscribing to more positive news platforms.
- Share positive news more often than negative news among your friends and family or on social media.
- Be conscious of how the news is affecting you and if it is contributing to your stress.
- Take breaks from being connected if you start feeling overwhelmed. If something in the news makes you upset, turn it off, and divert your attention. Go out for a walk or spend some time socializing to reduce your stress.
- Remember that if you are feeling helpless about the plight of others around the world, your stress or sadness will in no way help their suffering.
- Be critical about what you watch – many news items are sensationalized for shock value!
It’s important to take control of what you’re absorbing in this era of technology, where news is literally at your fingertips in real time. By doing so, you can both remain well-informed and healthy!