Is watching the news bad for you?


I have always enjoyed following current affairs. Whether it’s reading the paper, watching the news on TV or keeping up to speed with events via the radio, I have always kept up to date with what’s going on the world and considered myself to be pretty well-informed.

In recent months however, I’ve founding myself avoiding the news more and more. I’m completely aware that the serious newspapers and TV news bulletins aren’t there to entertain or raise the spirits, but I have found that the daily digest of bad news can really get me down at times and it seems I’m not alone. Anxiety from watching or reading about the news is not uncommon and for some people, a constant stream of bad news can become a real mental strain.

A study completed in 2009 by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Harvard Medical School linked hours spent watching television to an increased chance of depression whilst the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has warned that children may experience anxiety and stress from hearing about local and world events such as crime and natural disasters.

On a personal note, I guess the news makes me worry about the future. Not just for me but for the world my kids will grow up in. Murders, drugs, terrorism, climate change stories, intolerance and hate seem to be everywhere. TV bulletins report on conflicts all over the globe and a peaceful future for generations to come seems almost a pipe dream.

There are ways to mitigate the impact of the stream of bad new coming our way however. One important point to remember is that, unless the news is about something in our immediate locality, we are not in any immediate danger from the events described in news bulletins. Another point to consider is that getting anxious about a story on the TV news is a little self-indulgent. How I can complain about the impact that stories from a warzone are having on me when people somewhere in the world are actually living through it. How on earth must they feel? Not overly sympathetic to my feelings of anxiety I’m sure.

However, if watching the news does cause you stress or anxiety, it’s important to develop a strategy to deal with your feelings. A lot of the time it is a feeling of concern or helplessness rather than immediate danger that causes anxiety. Try and take control of the situation and see if there is anything you can do to help the situations you hear about. You may be able to do something to solve a problem in your local community; you can donate to disaster funds if you have money available; or you get politically involved and campaign on an issue you feel strongly about. Rather than being a passive recipient of bad news, try and use it to spur positive actions of your own.

A final option is to cut yourself off from the news altogether but the danger here is that you will leave yourself feeling isolated, something in itself that can cause stress and anxiety. Unfortunately, bad news is something we all have to live with but there are ways to mitigate the effect. Remember as well that TV bulletins and newspapers often sensationalise events and doing some further research about a story can often alleviate some of your concerns.

Image by Dominic Alves via Flickr

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