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  • Writer's pictureCameron Branch

Why the news is bad for your health

As many of us have now realised, the news is almost inescapably negative stories. Crime, War, Natural Disasters, Hate, Tragedy, Disputes, Accidents, Fear and Danger are common headline themes and to find good news whether it read, listened to or watched is a rarity. It’s not an accident that news stories are mostly upsetting as our brains are wired to pay more attention to danger than positive outcomes, so I guess we can’t blame the news for playing to their strengths. The question is what is this daily influx of negativity doing to our health?

In short, the news is making you sick. I know this is a very broad statement but in a sense I think it sums up the effect it’s having on you perfectly, and there is evidence to prove it. Mental health today is a sensitive subject and as rates continue to rise year by year especially in teens/young adults, they seem to be synchronistically paired to the rise in the availability of information from television news and media to internet, social networks, radio and newspapers. Now I’m not so brazen as to suggest that someone with severe depression or anxiety can merely turn off the tv and be instantly cured of all their troubles, nor am I suggesting that there are not other contributing factors. One thing can be clear, creating fear and panic certainly isn’t helping.

A recent study showed that the increased saturation of well presented information or gossip and the access we have to it had significantly changed in the last 15-20 years and that these changes have often been detrimental to general mental health. Studies also showed that this change in mood exacerbates the viewer’s own personal worries, even when those worries are not directly relevant to the news stories being broadcast, resulting in problems sleeping, mood swings or aggressive behavior, even PTSD

For me, just having increased anxiety and stress is reason enough to stop watching the news, but these and other mental health afflictions can also manifest in a physical form. Stress-related hormones, namely cortisol, have been linked to inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease and other serious health concerns.

The subconscious brain has trouble distinguishing the difference between reality and imagination and most notably we can point to the piano experiment conducted at Harvard Medical School. Briefly explained, the volunteers were separated into 2 groups, the first of which were shown a number of keys to play in order for 2 hours a day over a week. The second had the same keys and order but instead of physically playing the keys were told to imagine them playing it. The ability of mere thought was able to alter the physical structure and function of our gray matter in the brain as the test revealed that the region of brain that controls the piano-playing fingers also expanded in the brains of volunteers who imagined playing the music, just as it had in those who actually played it.

As an example, you gain zero benefit for having known a family died in a tragic car accident overnight but the empathy in you certainly resonates and subconsciously you feel some of the same emotions and trauma! As the repeated negative stories are thrown at you from every direction not just on the tv and radio but through social media and passing conversation all day, you through no fault of your own are left subconsciously feeling unsafe, anxious and upset about things that you never needed to hear.

We won’t even touch on validity of the news claims or ‘fake news’ as its commonly called, with most platforms seemingly more interested in click bait and being first, rather than fact checking and educating, in turn creating panic, fear, hatred and anxiety within its consumers, usually unwarranted. Given everything we know, in this writers opinion, people need to consume less news and gossip and be more present in their own lives. We know statistically that people who watch the news regularly and engage in gossip are generally more unhappy or stressed and adding that to any underlying issues that may surround you directly is only going to help exaggerate your own problems.

At the very least, limit the news you take in. Just like a healthy diet, if you have a little chocolate every now and then it’s not too bad, but if it’s all you eat, you’re probably heading to an early grave. If you do take in the news, look for red flags like ‘sources say’ or ‘an un named source’ as this is usually a dead give away that it’s just an unconfirmed rumour and being used to push their bias driven agenda to sell to the consumer the idea of possible danger.

At the end of the day it’s all up to you what you consume, and I guess it’s ironic that this, in a way it is a choice you have made to consume information, I only suggest you keep away from the negative, because now you know...... the news is bad for your health.

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