Anxiety-inducing media: The effect of constant news broadcasting on the well-being of Israeli television viewers

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Abstract

Objective: The effects of televised trauma on the emotional well-being of television viewers has received some scientific attention in recent years, suggesting that the general public is placed at risk of developing distress and possibly posttraumatic psychopathology as a result of secondary exposure via mass media. At the break of a recent war in Gaza, we assessed the psychological effects of the extensive news broadcasting. Method: An omnibus survey was performed two weeks into Operation Protective Edge with a sample of 500 participants representing the adult (> 18) Jewish population of Israel. Results: The results suggest that a vast majority (87.2%) of the population tuned in to the newscasts and the majority (76.7%) of viewers increased their news consumption compared to normal. Increased frequency of viewing newscasts was associated with reported anxiety reflected in uncontrolled fear, physiological hyperarousal, sleeping difficulties, and fearful thoughts. A regression model revealed that viewers watching the constant newscasts more than usual are 1.6 times more likely to report at least one anxiety symptom compared to those watching at the same frequency or less, standardized to gender and age. Conclusions: Increased viewing patterns of televised traumatic content, as well as negative perception of such broadcasts, are associated with the report of anxiety symptoms or psychopathology. The public health implications of the findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-276
Number of pages12
JournalPsychiatry (New York)
Volume78
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2015

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