Beware! Stress is contagious

Even TV shows can transmit it
  • Just like cold, stress can also be contagious and it matters only relation with the stressed person that we may come in contact with or not, says a study.
  • “Even television programmes depicting the suffering of other people can transmit that stress to viewers” said Veronika Engert of Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzing, Germany.
  • Observing another person in a stressful situation can be enough to make our own bodies release the stress hormone cortisol, the study noted.
  • Anyone who is confronted with the suffering and stress of another person, particularly when sustained, has a higher risk of being affected by it themselves.
  • “There must be a transmission mechanism via which the target’s state can elicit a similar state in the observer down to the level of a hormonal stress response”, Engert noted.
  • During the stress test, the participants had to struggle with difficult mental arithmetic task and interviews, while two supposed behavioural analysts assessed their performance.
  • The researchers found that 26 per cent of observers who were not directly exposed to any stress whatsoever also showed a significant increase in cortisol.
  • The effect was particularly strong when observer and stressed individual were partners in a couple relationships (40 per cent).
  • However, even watching a complete stranger, the stress was transmitted to 10 per cent of the observers.
  • Accordingly, emotional closeness is a facilitator but not n necessary condition for the occurrence of empathic stress.

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