The Effects of Negative News

It’s nearly impossible to log on to social media or turn on the TV without seeing something distressing. It could be a local crime story, a terrorist attack, or — at the very least — reactions to one of the most polarizing presidents in American history.

Just reading it now might even be bothersome, so we’ll move on. Rather than dwelling on what is troubling, let’s focus on the how and its result on our mental health — and how to beat it.

The Psychology of Bad News

A study by Psychology Today found what we already knew: People feel sadder after watching negative news than positive news. Got it.

But here’s what we didn’t know: People who watch negative news feel worse about pre-existing worries than people who watch happy or neutral events. That means people watching the news don’t just feel anxious about the world, they feel more anxious about their own lives.

British psychologist Dr. Graham Davey, who specializes in the effects of media violence, says negative news can affect how you interact with the world around you. As you consume threatening news, you’re more likely to spot threats in your day-to-day activities that aren’t there, which leads to anxiety.

Another recent study found that the journalists themselves who are constantly exposed to graphic images score higher on PTSD, depression, and alcohol consumption than the average American.

Why Is the News So Negative?

As news media revenue goes down and people become desensitized, news organizations feel the pressure to show emotionally relevant material such as crime and accidents. At a basic level, for something to be “newsworthy” — negative or not — it needs to be the exception of the rule, not the norm. That means watching the news might give you an inaccurate view of what daily life is like in the world.

How to Fight the Negativity

It’s important to understand important issues of the day. But when the news becomes too much, psychologists encourage you to take a break with some good news — or no news at all. Your TV might have you think the only three events in the world are war, crime, and sports. But advances in medicine and technology happen all the time! Seek out those stories, or take a break from news altogether. That’s when no news can become good news.