AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new study finds what you may already know about obsessing over negative news — it can have robust health consequences.
The study by researchers at Texas Tech University found 73.6% of participants who reported severe levels of “problematic news consumption” reported experiencing feeling mentally ill “quite a bit” or “very much” compared to just 8% of all other study participants.
Texas Tech University Associate Professor Bryan McLaughlin said more often than not, these people are focused on negative stories and become emotionally and mentally absorbed in it.
“They find themselves being kind of stressed and anxious and nervous a lot, and not really knowing what the cause is,” McLaughlin said.
The health problems discovered aren’t just mental, they’re also physical.
The study found 61% of severe problematic news consumers reported experiencing physical illness “quite a bit” or “very much” compared to just 6.1% of the other study participants.
The study isn’t just talking about people who watch the evening news and keep up with top headlines online. It draws an important distinction between consuming news and obsessing over it.
“If you’re watching the news, and you’re learning information, but you’re not feeling overly emotionally invested, and when you stop watching, you can kind of pull back and focus on your daily life, that would be a different thing,” McLaughlin said. “What we’re thinking about are people who can’t kind of disassociate, they can’t draw back, they can’t stop thinking about it, it’s making them feel anxious all the time. That’s kind of the key distinction we’re thinking about.”
If you find yourself struggling with a news obsession, researchers suggest checking in with yourself and asking whether your news consumption is negatively impacting other aspects of your life. McLaughlin also said mindfulness is a helpful tool.
“Mindfulness is the process of just being aware of your everyday surroundings, being present being here and now, and for people that can do that it can kind of calm themselves down,” he said.