Thursday 3 November 2016

How Good News and Bad News Affect Our Health

"If it bleeds, it leads" is a common refrain heard in news rooms, at least according to every Hollywood movie I've seen on the topic of media.  However, after the initial "positive effect" (as in increase in ratings) of an avalanche of negative news, there comes a breaking point where people become desensitized to the information presented, and then disengage entirely, seeking out ignorance as the balm to their frazzled nerves.

Mary McNaughton-Cassill, a professor at University of Texas–San Antonio,has conducted a study proving that negative news leads to increased levels of helplessness, hopelessness, depression, isolation, anxiety, contempt and hostility towards others, desensitization to the information presented and eventual disengagement.

In another study, Jodie Jackson, MSc in Positive Psychology, a research associate for the Constructive Journalism Project found that reading news stories that focus on solutions, achievements and peace building can lead to increased levels of optimism, hope and self-efficacy, where people believe the world can get better and they feel empowered to contribute. 

It has also shown that people have improved mood levels, better perspective, a restored faith in humanity, higher levels of active coping and increased engagement. Harvard professor Steven Pinker has long advised that the world, despite what we read in the news, is, in fact, actually in an upwards spiral.

It is important to note that reporting positive news does not require that we ignore negative news; rather, it requires that we not ignore positive news and that, where feasible, we include it into the wider narrative.  

To keep people coming back for more, and to better reflect the whole-world's experience, we need to be move beyond "Bleed Leads" to "Try Symmetry"

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