The researchers exposed groups of men and women to a succession of headlines drawn from recent newspaper articles. One group viewed only 'neutral' news, while the other group was shown news perceived as 'negative'. After reading the news, participants performed a standard psychological stress test. Researchers monitored participants' stress levels during the process by measuring salivary levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.
The authors found that, though reading negative news did not increase stress for any of their subjects, women exposed to negative news had higher cortisol levels after the psychological stress test exposure than did men who saw the same negative news, and also higher than either men or women who saw 'neutral' news. In addition, one day later the women were more likely than the men to remember and experience emotional responses to the negative news they had viewed the previous day, according to the results of this study.
Though previous studies have assessed the role of continuous exposure to mass media as a stress factor, this is the first research that questions the effects of exposure to negative news coverage on stress reactivity and later recall of the news. The results of this study suggest that gender differences underlying the processes of stress and memory may play a role in how we react to negative news in the media.
EurekAlert. 2012. “Women react to and recollect negative news more than men do”. EurekAlert. Posted: October 10, 2012. Available online: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-10/plos-wrt100512.php