Sick with the news

News about disasters in newspapers or on television may lead to health complaints and more visits to the GP, shows a publication of researchers from the NIVEL in the Journal of Traumatic Stress.

Years after the fireworks disaster in Enschede news events on the cause of the disaster lead to more health problems and visits to the GP than in the week before this news. Both in victims of the disaster and in residents who lived in Enschede at the time of the disaster, but were not exposed. The researchers also looked into the effects of international news and found more health problems in the week after the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York. No differences were found in the utilization and health complaints between the victims and the control group. Disaster news apparently makes everyone sick.

Arrest and verdict
The news of the arrest and later verdict of a suspect (who was thought to have caused the disaster) led to demonstrable health complaints and more visits to the GP. In other news events, the researchers found smaller effects or no effect at all. To ascertain the impact of news on utilization and health complaints, GP records were compared in the weeks before and after eleven 'local' and six international news events. Data were collected over a period of four years post-disaster.