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Watching media coverage of disasters linked to stress

Media lined Boylston Street after the 2013 Boston marathon bombings to provide continuous coverage of the disaster. Extensive consumption of the coverage made some individuals more stressed.

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Watching hours of media coverage of traumatic events may increase symptoms of distress, even in people not directly affected by the incident.

Based on an Internet survey, individuals who viewed six or more hours of media coverage per day of the 2013 Boston bombings in the week after the event had more symptoms of acute stress than did people who experienced the incident directly. The results appear December 9 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The team notes that people who are most upset by a disaster probably already have trauma symptoms. People may watch the related media coverage to cope with their distress, but over time, the reports amplify their grief, a process that could explain the results.

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