Due to technological changes and increased use of gadgets, people are continually being exposed to various information. Some people are overconsuming the news. Therefore, many people are living with problematic news consumption. The new study shows that this causes not only mental health issues in such individuals but also a significant rise in physical health problems. If you or someone you know is struggling with problematic news consumption and its effects on mental and physical health, consider seeking help from online substance abuse treatment or telehealth programs. These programs can also provide opioid dependence treatment for those dealing with addiction-like behavior towards news consumption.
We are living in turbulent times with many events happening around us. The covid pandemic is still ongoing, and then there is a raging war in Ukraine. The global economy had become increasingly unstable. Reading bad news most of the time can make people feel helpless and distressed. However, here it is worth understanding that this problem is also made worse by technology. We are living in the information age. It means that people are continually fed with information. Ultimately, many of us become addicted to gadgets and start consuming news and other information too frequently. This leads to chronic stress disorder. It is not difficult to guess that this is having a negative impact on mental health.
However, studies show that problematic news consumption’s effects are much graver. It not only causes mental health issues but is also harmful to physical health. Continually following the news can bring us into a state of over-excitement. It may increase sympathetic activity levels and, consequently, stress hormones. And on the other hand, frequently reading all the news may change our outlook, and we may start seeing the world as a small and dark place. It may fill us with hopelessness. For many people, consuming news rather becomes addictive. Instead of taking a break, people start consuming news even more often.
They start checking for updates regularly and become obsessed with the news. It is quite like substance addiction, where people need a dose of news to stay in a specific psychological state. Eventually, such an obsession starts interfering with life and the ability to carry out daily tasks1. To understand the gravity of the problem, researchers carried out an online survey of 1100 US adults. In the survey, participants had to answer a multiple-choice question like “I often do not pay attention at school or work because I am reading or watching the news,” and so on. They also answered about how frequently they experienced stress and anxiety. Additionally, researchers paid attention to physical symptoms like fatigue, physical pain, lack of concentration, and gastrointestinal issues.
Researchers analyzed the data and found that about 16.5% reported “severely problematic” news consumption. These were people who were too invested in various news stories. These stories dominated their thoughts and disrupted their life. It made it difficult for them to focus on work and even caused sleep difficulties. Not surprising that these were also individuals who were more likely to experience various mental and physical health issues.
When asked about mental and physical health issues:
- 73.6% reported frequent mental and physical health issues, which was merely 8% in those who did not report problematic news consumption. Thus, one can see that the difference is significant.
- 61% of those living with problematic new consumption reported frequent physical health issues, compared to a mere 6.1% in all other study participants.
The results of the study were as expected. However, what surprised researchers are the difference between those with problematic news consumption and other participants, which is massive.Surely, survey studies are not regarded as a good type of study, as they have many limitations. However, with such a significant difference between the mental and physical health issues faced by those living with problematic new consumption, this study turned out to be an eye-opener.
Though we all need to be aware of the situation. However, it seems that becoming addicted to the news can have many ill effects. Moreover, it is not just bad for mental health but can cause a significant number of physical health issues. Additionally, this study shows that the dramatization of events by news presenters is also causing much harm. Though new agencies are under significant economic pressure, it is time to realize the tactics used by new outlets are causing much damage to society.
By Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA, MHP