Absorbing negative news is impacting on mental health. It’s making readers anxious, hostile and increases the misconception of risks. And that's why we're launching a brand new feel-good newsletter – The Bright Side.
Graham Davey, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of Sussex said: “This torrent of negativity shifts our own moods towards negative emotions such as anxiety and sadness, and this then causes us to worry more about our own concerns and daily problems. When negative events such as terrorist attacks or natural disasters are presented visually and emotively, this can trigger acute stress reactions and even post-traumatic stress symptoms in vulnerable news consumers.”
With the barrage of negative stories, the phenomenon of ‘news avoidance’ is gaining traction too. A recent report by Digital News found that 32 per cent of those surveyed worldwide often or sometimes avoid the news in 2019. In 2017 that was 29 per cent, and the leading cause for Americans avoiding the news was, “It can have a negative effect on my mood” (57 per cent).
We consume war, epidemics, political chaos, stabbings, overdoses and murder by the minute. Our phones light up with breaking news; our radios murmur crisis’ to us over breakfast. The instantaneous nature of social media leads to alarming, and often exaggerated, headlines. With our brains programmed to tune into negative news, the fear factor keeps us hooked – the most alarming stories win views.
By reading mostly negative news we can overlook the good that’s happening. In 2019, we’ve discovered that heart disease rates have halved in the UK, the planet is five per cent greener than it was 20 years ago, and Britain’s once-endangered otters are no longer at risk of being wiped out. A report released in January showed that worldwide terrorist attacks fell by 33 per cent in 2018 compared to 2017 – that’s the lowest level since 2011. In technology, scientists developed a simple blood test which can predict if a pregnant woman is at risk of giving birth prematurely. And in February a giant tortoise believed extinct for 110 years was spotted in the Galápagos.
Along with the big news stories, keepers spent months hugging rhinos to prepare them for a journey back to the wild, and this week, when a woman named Sarah tweeted that she was struggling to look forward to her birthday (since her father passed away and her mum has dementia), the internet rallied together and got #HappybirthdaySarah trending.
We’re creating a space for these positive stories, both big and small. The Bright Side, our Tuesday lunchtime newsletter, will bring you a round-up of the week’s good news. It’s completely free, and you can sign up here.