'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.

July 2, 2012 22:32
2 minute read.
Child watching TV

TV 311. (photo credit: Hemera)


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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 Medical Settings.

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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 stress.

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 anxiety.

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.

“You are 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.

“This emphasizes the importance of interventions that target this population.”

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.

She concluded 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.

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