Researchers at UC Irvine in California studied news-viewing habits following “collective traumas,” such as natural disasters and terrorist attacks, and found that repeated exposure to graphic media images may have long-lasting mental and physical health consequences.
In an assessment of more than 1,300 participants, those who watched more than four hours a day of TV news coverage in the weeks after 9/11 and the start of the Iraq War reported acute and post-traumatic stress symptoms over time. In addition, they were more likely to report physical health problems two to three years later.
“I would not advocate restricting nor censoring war images for the psychological well-being of the public,” said study lead Roxane Cohen Silver. “Instead, I think it’s important for people to be aware that there is no psychological benefit to repeated exposure to graphic images of horror.”
“The results suggest that exposure to graphic media images may be an important mechanism through which the impact of collective trauma is dispersed widely,” Silver says. “Our findings are both relevant and timely as vivid images reach larger audiences than ever before through YouTube, social media and smart phones.”
Funded by the National Science Foundation, the study appears in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science.
Earlier this year, Israeli researchers published a study that found that exposure to media coverage of terrorist missile attacks increases pain levels in people already suffering from chronic pain. — AFP/Relaxnews