Bad News Increases Sensitivity to Stress

Cortisol levels higher in women who experience stress after reading bad news

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The news is full of stories of the bad things that people do. Have you ever wondered how this news can affect your emotions? It may create a heightened susceptibility to stress, but only in women.

According to a new study, women who read bad news stories showed an increased responsiveness to stressful situations. Men in the study did not experience this phenomenon. However, the women had better memory of what they read the next day.

"Talk to your therapist about stress management."

"Although the news stories alone did not increase stress levels, they did make the women more reactive, affecting their physiological responses to later stressful situations," said Marie-France Marin, PhD student of Neuroscience at the University of Montreal.

"Moreover, the women were able to remember more of the details of the negative stories. It is interesting to note that we did not observe this phenomenon amongst the male participants."

There were 60 participants in the study that were split into two groups. All participants read real news stories. The first group read neutral news articles, like a park opening or a movie premiere, the second group read negative news articles, like murders and accidents.

The researchers took saliva samples before and after reading the articles in order to measure participants cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that is linked to stress response, the higher the cortisol the higher stress level.

Participants then completed a series of memory and intellect tests that are designed to be stressful. A saliva sample was also taken after the tests.

The researchers found that the news stories themselves did not produce higher stress levels, but those who had read the negative news stories were more susceptible to stress during the tests conducted afterwards.

Interestingly, the phenomenon was only found to be true in the women participants.

All participants returned the next day to talk about what they had read the day before. The women who had read negative news had the best recollection of the news read the previous day.

The study was published online Oct. 10, 2012 in the journal PLOS One and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Chair on Sex, Gender and Mental Health.

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Review Date: 
October 10, 2012
Last Updated:
June 14, 2013