The COVID-19 pandemic, monkeypox, climate change, political strife, and whole lot of other disasters can have people glued to the news.
And for a relatively sizeable portion of the population, it can become a serious problem lined to a host of physical and mental health issues.
A new study suggests that about 16 percent of the population are compulsive news watchers who can’t stop consuming or thinking about the news. The information can take over their lives and lead to both physical and mental health troubles.
If you find yourself constantly thinking about the news or checking for all the latest updates, it could be having a more negative impact on your life than you realize.
People who reported high levels of problematic news-watching experience greater levels of stress over prolonged periods. The stress may lead to consistently high levels of inflammation, which can lead to health problems or exacerbate existing conditions.
Things also seem to be going from bad to worse. And it might not even be that that much more bad stuff is happening than usual. A big part of it is that people access news from devices in their pocket constantly, instead of electing to set aside time to watch the evening news or read a newspaper or periodical.
Researchers surveyed 1,100 U.S. adults in August of last year and were asked to identify with statements like:
- “I became so absorbed by the news that I forget the world around me”
- “My mind is frequently occupied with thoughts about the news”
- “I find it difficult to stop reading or paying attention to the news”
- “I often do not pay attention at school or work because I am reading or watching the news”
Participants were also asked if they experience stress and anxiety, as well as pain, fatigue, poor concentration, or digestive issues.
The survey showed that the people who reported problematic news consumption were more likely to experience mental and physical symptoms than those who consumed less time-consuming news.
There are clear benefits to staying informed. If you have trouble peeling yourself away, then the key may be to control consumption by blocking off chunks of time to read or view news, avoiding “social” news where you participate through comments/message boards, and only viewing news when you’re feeling calm.