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Study Finds People Suffered from Acute Stress due to Media Exposure of the Boston Marathon Bombings

Update Date: Dec 10, 2013 11:22 AM EST

Due to the popularity behind media screens, such as the television or the computer, several studies have attempted to examine the effects of media on people. In a new study, researchers focused on the effects of watching media coverage of a traumatic event. They found that people who watched the media coverage on the Boston Marathon bombings for more than six hours a day during the week after the attack showed signs of acute stress.

"While direct exposure, of course, had an impact, this media exposure was an even stronger predictor of acute stress than was direct exposure," commented co-author Roxane Cohen Silver, a professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California-Irvine reported by USA Today. "We're not talking about somebody sitting in front of the television. This is being repeatedly exposed throughout the day to a variety of sources of media."

For this study, the researchers had interviewed 4,675 adults roughly two to six weeks after the bombings. Within the nationally representative group of people, 846 were from the Boston area and 941 were from New York City. The interview was focused on acute stress responses, which are characterized by symptoms such as intrusive thoughts, detached emotions, attempting to avoid remembering the events and feeling on the edge. The people were also asked about their degree of direct and indirect exposure to the tragic events.

The researchers concluded that people who were exposed to media coverage of the bombings for more than six hours a day were nine times more likely to suffer from high acute stress. The researchers stated that with each additional hour watch, people's acute stress response symptoms increased.

"When you repeatedly see images of a person with gruesome injuries after an event is over, it's like the event continues and has its own presence in your life," said lead author E. Alison Holman, associate professor of nursing science at University of California, Irvine according to FOX News. "Prolonged media exposure can turn what was an acute experience into a chronic form of stress. People may not realize how stressful these media-based exposures are. Looking at these images over and over again is not productive and may be harmful."

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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