Why bad news hits women the hardest: Headlines take toll because they have evolved to look out for situations that affect them and their children
Women are more affected by bad news headlinesThey can also remember the details betterWomen have evolved to look out for situations that threaten them and their children
11:24 GMT, 12 October 2012
Bad news: Women are more affected by bad news and can be reduced to tears by the latest headlines a study found
It is a finding that will come as no surprise to women reduced to tears by the latest headlines – while their husbands simply shrug their shoulders.
Women are more affected by bad news and can also remember the details better, a study found.
Researchers who showed men and women stories taken from newspapers found reports of accidents and murders took a greater toll on the female psyche.
This, they said, could be because women are more empathetic and have evolved to look out for and think about situations that threaten them and their children.
The Canadian researchers gave 56 men and women a selection of stories from Montreal’s newspapers. Some were judged to be emotionally neutral, such as a report about a film premiere or the opening of a new bridge.
Others were more harrowing.
Samples of saliva were regularly taken throughout the experiment, to check for any changes in levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
University of Montreal researcher Marie-France Marin said: ‘Although the news stories alone did not increase stress levels they did make the women more reactive, affecting their physiological response to later stressful situations.
While women are affected, men can simply shrug their shoulders at the headlines. Women can also remember the details better
Look out: Women are more empathetic and have evolved to look out for and think about situation that threaten them and their children
‘Moreover, the women were able to remember more details of the negative stories.
‘It is interesting to note that we did not observe this phenomenon among the male participants.’
Writing in the journal PLOS ONE she added women’s bodies may be primed to be alert to danger.
She said: ‘It has been suggested that women’s stress system is wired up to ensure not only their own survival but the one of their offspring as well.’
Professor Terrie Moffitt, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, said working out how women’s bodies and hearts cope with extra stress could be key to good health.
‘How do women manage to neutralise the effects of stress on their cardiovascular systems’ she said. ‘An answer to that would improve the health of all of us.’