'TV coverage of violence exacerbates chronic pain'
Experts find that ‘exposure to media’ predicts increase in pain’s intensity, as well as its sensory component.
Child watching TV Photo: Hemera
It is often said that “news hurts” and the news media are “a pain,” but new
research by Beersheba researchers has confirmed it – at least when it comes to
TV coverage of terror and rocket attacks.
People who already suffer from
chronic pain suffer physically even more when they are exposed to TV coverage of
warlike events, according to the study at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and
Soroka University Medical Center. The study by Prof. Golan Shahar and
Dr. Sheera Lerman of BGU’s psychology department and Dr. Zvia
Rudich of Soroka was just published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in
They asked 140 chronic pain patients treated at
Soroka’s outpatient pain clinic to participate in a study on psychological
adjustment to chronic pain by filling out detailed questionnaires. These results
served as a baseline.
More than a year later, a few months after
Operation Cast Lead, 55 of the original participants agreed to comment on media
exposure. Those who suffer from chronic pain and responded ranged from teenagers
to the elderly, but the average age was in the mid-fifties. Very few of those
queries had been close to the missile attacks, Lerman said. Chronic pain
patients, the researchers wrote, naturally suffer from chronic
According to the published paper’s conclusions “exposure to the
media” predicted an increase in pain intensity and in the sensory component of
pain after the missile attacks, but did not predict depression or
Although the published study itself did not explain what kind of
“media exposure” was involved, Lerman conceded to The Jerusalem Post that it was
in fact exposure to TV news and not from reading the newspapers.
right,” she said on Monday. “We didn’t study all the media. It would have been
better to compare the pain intensity in people who read newspapers only with
those who saw only TV reports.”
“Our results show that indirect exposure
to terrorism had an adverse effect on the physical pain of chronic pain patients
but not on their emotional distress,” the researchers wrote.
emphasizes the importance of interventions that target this
Asked what pain sufferers can learn from the study, she
suggested that people who have such problems and do not feel well when watching
the results of war or terror on TV should turn off the set.
that some people might feel more in control if they watched TV reports of
missile attacks, while others could react by feeling more vulnerable and thus
suffer more physical pain.