Every morning, after pouring yourself a steaming cup of coffee, you turn on the television and watch the news. Throughout the day, you also catch up on the latest headlines on your favorite websites and social media platforms. If you can relate to this scenario, you’re not alone. The constant 24-hour news cycle keeps many people glued to their electronic devices in order to stay informed.
However, could binging on news actually be harmful to your health? According to The New York Times, a fitness chain based in Minnesota seems to think so.
Suggesting that viewing cable news is not advantageous to a “healthy way of life,” Life Time, with 130 gyms in 27 states, no longer allows cable news programs to play on its televisions. Not to be bias, the fitness chain removed both left and right-leaning cable news stations from the large-screen televisions in its exercise facilities. As of January, 2018, gym members can no longer discover the latest happenings around the world on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News.
In an e-mail, Natalie Bushaw, a spokesperson for Life Time said the new practice “was based on many member requests received over time across the country, and in keeping with our overall healthy way of life philosophy and commitment to provide family-oriented environments free of polarizing or politically charged content.” Uchechi Egbuchulam, a Life Time patron in Massachusetts, seems thrilled with the change. In an interview, she said, “I think they’re looking out for everybody’s well-being and truly thinking about the words that they say as a brand” and “They’re providing opportunities for people to take care of their whole self. This is one way that they’re choosing to do that as a company.”
According to some psychologists, watching negative and violent news coverage might lead to serious and long-term psychological repercussions. Research conducted by British psychologist Dr. Graham Davey implies intense media viewing can worsen or lead to bouts of anxiety, depression, stress, and post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Davey said, “Negative news can significantly change an individual’s mood — especially if there is a tendency in the news broadcasts to emphasize suffering and also the emotional components of the story.”
He revealed he also believes watching negative news stories causes you to view your own personal issues as more frightening and severe. Davey noted that the way negative news coverage impacts your mood can have meaningful effects on how you construe and interact with the world around you.
If watching the news makes you anxious or sad, you might increase your odds of perceiving ambiguous or neutral events as negative ones. Neurologically, when you see images or videos of violence, you understand that they’re different from actual violence. Therefore, you don’t process them as foreboding stimuli. But, you internalize the negative news. This internalization might mess with your mood and cause you to feel more negative thoughts about your environment.
Besides psychological drawbacks, being a news junkie may also impair your memory according to The Guardian. Everyone possesses two types of memory, long-range and working. Long-range memory’s capability is almost limitless. Unfortunately, working memory is restricted to a specific amount of information. The path from short-term to long-range memory is a congested one. But, if you want to understand something, it must pass through this route. If this corridor is interrupted, no data passes through. Because viewing news disrupts concentration, it negatively impacts comprehension.
As if adversely affecting your mood and memory weren’t enough, binging on news might also harm your immune system. It triggers your limbic system. According to WebMD, the limbic system is the part of your brain that controls emotion and processes memory. As you watch harrowing news stories, your brain releases cascades of glucocorticoid, also referred to as cortisol. When this occurs, your immune system deregulates and the release of growth hormones is stymied. Your body surrenders to a continuous state of stress. Elevated cortisol levels may lead to a lack of cell, hair and bone growth, nervousness, digestive problems, and a vulnerability to infections.According to CNN, news is much like food. It’s a necessity. However, “You can binge, you can starve, or you can regulate your intake.” Closely monitoring your reactions to news stories will likely inform you whether you may need to alter your media viewing rituals.
~ Health Scams Exposed