Why reading the news is bad for you

I have an alarm clock that wakes me up to the radio every morning. A while back I switched from being woken up by Radio 4 to letting the sounds of BBC Somerset drift into by subconscious instead. Listening to Radio 4 made me feel a little bit more important, but it made me miserable because everything in the news is so fucking sad.*

Seriously, pick up any newspaper or turn the TV on at 6pm (to something other than Eggheads) and you’d be forgiven for wondering why we don’t just set a massive nuclear explosion off in the centre of the earth and put us all out of our misery.

Take a look at the news today and you can see what I mean:

negative news

It’s shit. I mean well done to Brian Blessed and everything, but come on.

It’s death, war, destruction, crappy politics – is it any wonder the NHS is crumbling and GPs are overworked? We are all having to drink heavily and take prescription medications just to try and block out the hideous reality of life.

Except it isn’t hideous at all is it? It’s actually amazing, miraculous and beautiful, but for some reason that isn’t the stuff people want to read about. They want to know about disasters on a global scale when the really wonderful stuff is happening every day in your own town. Individual people are doing interesting and valuable things, changes other people’s lives, remaining positive in difficult circumstances, loving their friends and family and generally getting on with things.

It’s pretty bloody marvellous.

Reading the news has actually been shown in numerous studies to be physically bad for us. This article gives multiple reasons for switching off, not least this:

“News is toxic to your body. It constantly triggers the limbic system. Panicky stories spur the release of cascades of glucocorticoid (cortisol). This deregulates your immune system and inhibits the release of growth hormones. In other words, your body finds itself in a state of chronic stress. High glucocorticoid levels cause impaired digestion, lack of growth (cell, hair, bone), nervousness and susceptibility to infections. The other potential side-effects include fear, aggression, tunnel-vision and desensitisation.”

Sounds pretty nasty doesn’t it? Personally I need all the hair growth I can get, I can’t afford to impair anything.

A university professor interviewed here says that “in addition to a burgeoning sense of helplessness, cognitive shortcuts triggered by the news can also lead us to gradually see the world as a darker and darker place, chipping away at certain optimistic tendencies.”

Is this what you want for yourself? A chipping away of your optimistic tendencies?? No thank you very much.

Now there will be a lot of people I’m sure who will think that my refusal to read the news is pure ignorance, that you can’t hope to bring about any sort of positive change without an international political and economic context, but I think that’s rubbish. Not reading the news isn’t about laziness, ignorance or apathy, it’s a very conscious decision to cultivate a more positive way of thinking and not have my head filled with horror that I am helpless to do anything about.

Some people may worry that ignoring the news means you don’t care or that you’ll cease to be an active member of society, but as my professor explains, the opposite can actually be true as constant exposure to bad news stories only increases feelings of hopelessness:

“When I’ve done studies and people watch coverage of, say, 9/11, they don’t then meet criteria for depression in the DSM,” she said. “But if you ask them how they feel about the world, what they end up with is this malaise: ‘Everything’s kinda bad’ and ‘Why should I vote? It’s not gonna help’ and ‘I could donate money, but there’s just gonna be another kid who’s starving next week.’”

I may not know who the president of some far flung country is, but that doesn’t stop me helping out a friend in need does it? An ignorance of the latest oil crisis doesn’t prevent me from holding a door open for a mum with a pushchair or giving money to someone on the street or generally being a nice person and doing little things that make other’s people’s lives a little bit better, if only for a minute.

They say that no news is good news, and I’m sticking with that.

How do you feel about the news? 

*Sorry Daddy for the bad language but it really is very sad.



  1. 21 January, 2015 / 4:45 pm

    To be honest I tend to avoid the news, if I read anything remotely upsetting i fly into a rage or cry. Since becoming mama I just can’t handle it anymore. x

  2. 22 January, 2015 / 3:18 pm

    I avoid it as much as I can – infact, this morning I deleted the BBC News app from my mobile because I found myself going onto it out of habit and then getting annoyed and/or upset at the articles, so time for it to go. I rarely watch the news on telly, and everything just seems to be doom and gloom. It doesn’t surprise me that reading the news is bad for you.

  3. 22 January, 2015 / 6:41 pm

    I try to avoid watching the news now and just catch the tail end for the (hopefully) good news story at the end. I’ve always liked that line from the Simon & Garfunkel song – I get all the news I need from the weather report. That may sound a bit head in sand but I do keep up to date on current affairs, watching Question Time, even twitter is a good source but the news is just so deeply depressing these days, it’s not what I want to hear first or last thing in my day.

  4. 22 January, 2015 / 8:12 pm

    Well said – I made a conscious decision to stop watching the news back in October 2014 for all the reasons you say and I was so sick of the pervasive casual racism being spewed at us. It was making me feel angry and marginalised. I’m not out of touch with the world or apathetic because I choose to inform myself in other ways that haven’t been packaged for political point scoring.
    Phew – so glad it’s not just me :)

  5. Jo
    23 January, 2015 / 11:10 pm

    I generally have no clue about what is going on in the world, I can’t do much about it, so I figure I’m better off not knowing. It isn’t that I don’t care because I really do but what’s the point in getting bogged down with it all. What is happening in my own world that I can make a difference too is far more important. Thanks for this, I completely agree x

  6. 26 January, 2015 / 12:40 pm

    Here, here! Yep I don’t watch it. With the precious time I have I prefer to either listen to some great music or watch something that makes me laugh. Now if it was about all the good, positive things happening in the world then that would be worth hearing about and may even inspire more of the same?!

  7. 2 July, 2015 / 7:47 am

    I am not a news freak, but sometimes I really enjoyed the wrap up the news which is so fast and time saving

  8. chris bull
    28 April, 2018 / 12:50 pm

    I totally agree, most of the news is so toxic and makes me sad and angry at the same time, not a good feeling, especially when we can’t do anything to change it :-(

  9. Hayley Ashton
    5 May, 2018 / 3:37 pm

    I don’t read many news articles now unless a particular one interests me. But I do stay away from mainly the political ones and fictional ones on celebrities. I found it hard to be positive but ever since I’ve stayed away from negative news as much as I can I’ve improved on this. Although I still follow BBC News I just mainly ignore its sad/bad headlines but I do still say the odd thing sometimes. Sometimes it is hard not to say something but then it’s better to get it over with and then focus on something positive straight after and that will make you feel better.
    Sometimes I have to know what’s going on in the world but I am sick of seeing mainly negative news and not the positive ones so I follow Positive News on Twitter for the happier/good news not many people pay much attention to. I really hope that one day there will be more people focusing on the good headlines instead of the bad all the time :).

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