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Monday, August 1, 2016

IS THE NEWS CAUSING DEPRESSION?

BRYCE ON THE NEWS

- Does it act like a drug?

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I've been studying depression and the causes of it. From what I have read, scientists are not absolutely sure why it occurs, it can be for a variety of reasons, but it appears cases of it are rising in the Untied States. I'm told it affects one in ten Americans, more than 16 million adults. I also heard the United States is one of the leading nations suffering from this affliction.

People suffering from depression exhibit a variety of symptoms, such as sadness and low mood, a sense of hopelessness, irritability, persistent doubting, and intolerance. In my circle of friends, most see the country spinning out of control, not just politically, but morally both in the corporate world and personal lives. I see little optimism and cannot remember seeing someone in business "knocking them dead." It seems most people are just trying to hang on. The stock markets seem to be stalling, as does our GDP, and we no longer seem to command respect from our overseas partners. In general, the mood of the country is simply not good; a sort of national depression.

I've read a few studies suggesting part of the problem is our fixation on news. I believe we consume too much of it. Traditional newspapers and news magazines may have diminished, but we now live in an era of 24/7 news reporting which we either watch on television or over the Internet. As for me, I'm a news junky as I want to stay abreast of the latest political and corporate news, as well as the avant garde. I receive news alerts during the day, view on-line news sources, and at night I watch cable news. It is even common for me to fall asleep with a news channel on all night. If I wake up and hear something newsworthy, it is not unusual for me to jump on my computer and write up some notes for an essay.

My circle of friends may not be as consumed by the news as I am, but they definitely follow it throughout the day. I also find people over 40 tend to be more interested in the news than the millennials. Nonetheless, I suspect news reporting does, indeed, have an impact on us.

Aside from tragic news which shocks our emotions, the obsession we possess in terms of political news has perhaps a more deep seeded affect on us. The news we hear is unsettling to our sensibilities. We are easily disturbed when our sense of right and wrong is tested, be it through an act of our government officials, corruption, or some other indiscretion. It simply offends us that such an act could occur. Consider this, conservatives intensely dislike Mrs. Clinton and believe she should be in jail. Likewise, liberals feel the same about Mr. Trump. If we focus on these issues too long, it begins to consume our psyche and allows depression to set in.

News also inhibits our thinking which requires concentration. To do so, we need time during the day when we are not disturbed to focus on our work. However, the news is specifically designed to interrupt our day. To illustrate, it is not uncommon for me during the work day to receive a pop-up message on some news item. However, over the years I have trained myself to quickly deal with the message (either delete or save it) before returning to my work. In other words, I have disciplined myself not to allow it to interrupt too much of my work. I tend to believe others are not as disciplined.

Thanks to technology, the news acts like a drug we are addicted to. Even though we are alarmed by what we hear, we cannot seem to change the channel, and want to know more. This is what the news media is counting on in order to fill their coffers. This explains why on a slow news day, they manage to find a small scrap of news and blow it out of proportion to unsettle us.

Perhaps the best advice on how to handle news depression comes from a masseuse friend of mine who said not to watch more than fifteen minutes of news at a sitting. "It will drive you crazy otherwise," he contends. That's difficult for someone like me who needs to monitor news for story ideas, but it make a lot of sense for those who are not.

Also published with News Talk Florida.

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim's columns, see:   timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2016 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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