People who look at violent news on social media may experience symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a study presented at the annual conference of the British Psychology Society.
The study included 189 participants who each completed a clinical assessment for PTSD, a personality questionnaire, a vicarious trauma assessment, and questionnaire about various violent news events on the internet. These events included the 9/11 terrorist attacks, school shootings, and suicide bombings.
The researchers found that 22% of the participants had high scores on clinical assessments for PTSD. None of the participants had histories of previous trauma. Additionally, none of the participants had been present at any of the violent events and had only watched them through social media.
Participants who had viewed the events more often tended to have the highest scores, and those with extroverted personalities were more likely to be affected.
“The negative effects of exposure to other people’s suffering have long been recognized in roles such as professional health care workers,” Pam Ramsden, PhD, of the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom said in a statement. “Various studies have documented the negative psychological reactions following indirect exposure to traumatized people called vicarious traumatization.”
As the prevalence of social media continues to grow, the researchers stress the importance of informing users of the risks associated with viewing violent events. They also encourage people to seek appropriate support channels if they experience any PTSD symptoms after viewing these events.
The University of Bradford’s Dr. Pam Ramsden presented her finding at the annual conference of the British Psychology Society.
Researchers had 189 participants complete a clinical assessment for PTSD, a personality questionnaire, a vicarious trauma assessment and a questionnaire concerning different violent news events on social media or the internet. The mean age of the participants was 37 years old with an almost even gender split.