There quite a bit of bad news hitting all forms of media these days and they are usually the stories that make the front page and go viral. Negative news sells. Women react to bad news with more stress than men and remember negative headlines better than their male counterparts, new research finds.
The study is one of the first to examine the body’s response to negative media, something we’re all exposed to on nearly a daily basis. As it turns out, a perusal of nasty headlines does not automatically trigger the body’s stress response, but women who have read negative news show heightened anxiety in response to later stress.
In our society, more people will choose to watch the criminal trial of a celebrity rather than the biography of a truly great human being.
“Given that ‘there is no news like bad news,’ it is essential to understand the societal reactions to negative information that is perpetually transmitted and passively received via popular mediums,” the study researchers wrote in the journal PLoS ONE.
The University of Montreal researchers asked 56 men and women to read 24 news excerpts, each consisting of a headline and a short summary. Half of the participants saw neutral news, while the rest got depressing information. After reading the news segments, the participants each participated in a stressful mock job interview followed by a mental math test. Throughout the experiment, researchers measured the levels of the stress hormone cortisol present in the participants’ saliva.
The measurements showed that neither men nor women were physically stressed out by reading bad news. But in the later stressful task, women who had read the negative news saw their cortisol leap upward much more than women who had read the neutral news. In men, cortisol levels weren’t related to their previous news reading.