Women and the bad news blues
I’d like to ask my female readers a question: do you sit mesmerised and horrified as news of the latest tragedy, murder or disaster flickers across your TV screen? Have you ever lain awake at night thinking about the suffering victims? And while all this has been happening, have you found your husband or boyfriend to be frustratingly cool and uninvolved about the whole thing?
A new study from Canada may throw some light on this particular quirk of the male psyche.
Sixty people were divided into four male-female groups and asked to read different types of news stories, ranging from neutral ones, such as the opening of a new film, to ones with an emotional kick, such as accidents and disasters. Then the participants were given a series of memory and intellect-focused tests designed to evaluate how they responded to stressful situations. Levels of the stress hormone cortisol were examined at key stages.
Lastly the participants returned the following day to talk about what they had read in their stores.
Researchers found that the women who had read negative news stories showed higher levels of stress following the testing and also recalled the news stories they had read in greater detail.
Lead author of the study, Marie-France Marin, remarked rather drily:
“It is interesting to note that we did not observe this phenomenon amongst the male participants.”
“Although the news stories alone did not increase stress levels, they did make the women more reactive, affecting their physiological responses to later stressful situations.”
This curious difference may be nature talking. The researchers speculate that women may have evolved a different response to stress and a greater sense of empathy than men because they have historically been more focused on the survival of children.
I think we can see an echo of this discovery in the way men and women talk. No, I’m not talking about the hoary old cliché that women talk more than men, which seems to have little basis in fact. I am talking about the way they talk. In so far as one can generalise about entire genders, when women talk to each other on a personal basis you will usually hear a degree of emotional involvement – expressions of empathy and sympathy for each other’s woes and discussions of the fine details in their lives. Men, by contrast, tend to be a little more detached, and when they talk to each other it is as often as not about things rather than people: football, films, books, careers, and so on. Neither way of talking is better or worse than the other: they’re just different.
The media adage ‘it it bleeds it leads’ sums up something we have all felt while watching the news: why is so much of it bad? Many journalists will vehemently deny that the media is fixated on doom and disaster but the fact remains that the media is a commercial operation, and attention-grabbing sensationalism is an easy way to pull in those all-important advertisers, readers and viewers.
Keeping up with current affairs is a worthy ambition, but none of us should ever hesitate to switch over – or switch off – if and when it all gets a little too much.
So how do men deal with bad news? By turning to the bottle apparently! A 2008 study found that men are more likely than women to crave alcohol after getting bad news. You can draw conclusions from that!
Photo by Adam Mulligan under a Creative Commons licence
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Marilyn Stowe is the senior partner in Stowe Family Law, which has offices in Yorkshire, Cheshire and London. With more than 30 years’ experience handling divorce cases and family law proceedings she is regarded as one of the most formidable and sought after divorce lawyers in the UK. In 2012, Marilyn became one of the first solicitors to qualify as a family law arbitrator.
All persons mentioned in the scenarios are fictitious: details have been deliberately changed in order to protect identities and other confidential circumstances of my clients. All advice and information on this blog including posts written by guest authors, is given only as a general guide to the operation of the law on the date of publication. Readers must place no reliance whatsoever on the content of this blog and must always obtain their own legal advice. Marilyn Stowe, Stowe Family Law LLP and guest authors accept no liability whatsoever arising as a result of reliance upon its content.
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