Study: Watching Wall-to-Wall Coverage of Boston Marathon Bombings Was More Stressful Than Being There

| Mon Dec. 9, 2013 4:12 PM EST

Just how stressful is it to glue yourself to media coverage of a horrific event like the Sandy Hook massacre, the 9/11 attacks, or last year's Boston Marathon bombings? In some cases, it may be more stressful than direct exposure to the event.

That's according to a new study from the University of California-Irvine, which focused on the Boston attacks this past April. In the wake of the bombings, researchers measured symptoms of acute stress reported by people who were either at the event or who had loved ones there. They compared these responses to the responses of people with no connection to the event, but who were exposed to repeated media reports on the bombing. The media junkies were the more stressed-out group, because, the team concluded, the extended exposure kept the acute stressor "active and alive" in their minds.

"We underestimate the role of media exposure to graphic images," says Alison Holman, the study's lead author. "It's not just seeing it once; my concern is the repetitive viewing. If seeing those images over and over produces more rumination or habitual worrying, even at a subconscious level, it could be contributing to mental or physical ailments."

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