Is Your News Diet Bad For Your Health?

Is Your News Diet Bad For Your Health?

There was a time that people would put on the news and listen to actual news, actual facts. However, eventually, someone in the news industry decided they could get more viewers and reap more money from advertisers if more negative content in the form of ‘talking heads’. Along with internet data manipulation implemented into everything from consumerism to voting choices, the news has become more than just the facts. As a result, the crack in the division of communities and countries alike began to emerge. So much so that the amount of daily news information received by a single person significantly surpassed what the average person was exposed to during pre-internet days, when such a division was present, but not prominent. 

Re-evaluating your news diet could prove beneficial to your health as research is revealing that so much information could be re-wiring our brains. Find out if your news diet is bad for your health and ways you may be able to rebalance what seems to have gotten so out of balance for so many people.

Headache Inducer

Watching the news incessantly, or even occasionally, may be triggering headaches. Researchers from the University of Haifa, and Soroka University Medical Center, both in Israel, studied how specific news exposure, mainly negative stories, affected headache manifestation. 

It was stated that,

“Higher television news ratings were associated with increased incidence of Emergency Department headache related visits. We assume that especially among older persons, news viewership ratings provide an indirect estimate of collective stress, which acts as a headache trigger for susceptible subjects.”

The fight or flight, sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, were put into place before technology could mimic a response previously intended for an in-nature event. In other words, we have been wired to determine if the animal we are hunting, for instance, will kill us or not. However, when we watch the constant bombardment of negative news stories, a similar response can occur but we have no way of dealing with it other than being stressed. Stress can lead to headaches or even more serious conditions over time.

Misery Loves Company

There are a staggering number of people struggling with a variety of levels of depression on any given day. Watching the news does not help. 

Research published in the British Journal of Psychology by researchers from the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Open University of the Netherlands, who titled their study, ‘Is the News Making Us Unhappy? The Influence of Daily News Exposure on Emotional States’ stated that,

“Results showed that negative news perceptions were related to more negative affect and less positive affect, and these effects were moderated by personal relevance,…”

It is close to the old saying, “misery loves company,” where the news has been so successful. In fact, it almost acts in a cyclical way. Negative content makes the viewer feel unhappy (even if it is subconscious) and the viewer keeps coming back to watch the negative content to confirm their unhappiness.  

Fear Induced Disease

So there is something valid about positive thinking. A bright, “glass-half-full” outlook has proven to assist in preventing, and in some cases, eradicating disease. Therefore, if you are glued to the twenty-four hour news cycle chances are you could be setting yourself up for fear-induced disease. This is particularly true if you are continually exposed to specific news stories targeting specific diseases such as breast cancer. There seems to be at least a weekly story on the horrors associated with breast cancer and some people could be negatively affected.

A small study out of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium looked at how television news exposure is related to fear of breast cancer. It concluded that, 

“These results suggest a relationship between exposure to breast cancer coverage in television news programs and fear of breast cancer.”

Be aware of fear induced reporting or content when watching the news or even commercials. These are often placed to keep you watching as, for some reason, humans are more curious to consume negative information than positive. 

Anxiety Trigger

Right alongside chronic depression, there is the continued doctor visits and associated pharmacological prescriptions for anxiety. Diminishing a news diet filled with negative content has shown to possibly diminish symptoms associated with this condition. 

The study, “Anxiety-Inducing Media…” published in the journal Psychiatry, concluded that,

“Increased viewing patterns of televised traumatic content, as well as negative perception of such broadcasts, are associated with the report of anxiety symptoms or psychopathology.”

If you struggle with anxiety, know your triggers. If watching the news seems to create more negative responses from you (in the form of anxiety or otherwise) then limit your exposure. 

Sometimes taking a break from the habit of watching the news is liberating. If you think your news diet is bad for health, conduct an experiment. Stop consuming the news. Stop watching it, reading it, or even talking about it. Try to do this for the time-tested period for breaking an addiction which is twenty-one days. Try to be hyper-vigilant of noticing things like your mood, sleep, overall outlook on life. If they seem to improve, then keep your news exposure to a minimum. Most of the time the only real news worth needing to know is the weather and the traffic, the rest is just noise.