News Stories

Who is More Stressed by Bad News?

Couples fight over lots of things, including the TV news. Does she want to change the channel when stories about war and famine, while he's not bothered by them? It turns out that bad news articles in the media increase women’s sensitivity to stressful situations, but do not have a similar effect on men.

The women who participated in the study that revealed this also had a clearer recollection of the information they had learned. Researcher Marie-France Marin says, "It's difficult to avoid the news, considering the multitude of news sources out there. And what if all that news was bad for us? It certainly looks like that could be the case."

In this case, it was newspapers: The researchers divided 60 people into groups to read actual news stories. In order to determine their stress levels, the researchers took samples of the participants' saliva and analyzed them for a hormone called cortisol. Higher levels of this bodily chemical indicate higher levels of stress.

One group, made up of both men and women, read "neutral" news stories, about subjects such as the opening of a new park or the premiere of a new film, while the another two gender-segregated groups read negative stories, about events such as murders or accidents. Saliva samples were taken in order to determine the effect of these news stories.

The researchers were surprised by what they found. Marin says, "Although the news stories alone did not increase stress levels, they did make the women more reactive, affecting their physiological responses to later stressful situations." This could also explain why mean and women like different TV shows and movies.

The researchers believe that evolutionary factors may play a part in this, since other scientists have considered whether an emphasis on the survival of offspring may have influenced the evolution of the female stress system, leading women to be more empathetic. This theory would explain why women could be more susceptible to indirect threats.

Marin says, "More studies should be undertaken to better understand how gender, generational differences and other socio-cultural factors affect our experience, as individuals, of the negative information that perpetually surrounds us."

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