Journalists Expsoed to Traumatic Images Face High Risk of Developing PTSD, Depression

First Posted: Aug 08, 2014 03:41 AM EDT

A new study reveals a strong association between newsroom journalists and increased risk of developing PTSD and depression.

The study, led by researchers at the Sunnybrook Health Science Centre in Toronto, claimed that journalists who deal with images of extreme violence in newsrooms face an increased risk of adverse psychological consequences that include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The researchers found that frequent exposure to disturbing images by journalists - working with 'live' or User Generated Content (UGC) material - make them more susceptible to anxiety issues, depression, PTSD and alcohol abuse.

For the journalists processing UGC material, it is not the duration but the frequency of exposure to images of graphic violence that is more emotionally distressing. News organizations look for UGC. Some of the organizations have created specific news units to edit and "sanitise" the images that could be used for screening in news and documentaries.  

The finding is based on the evaluation of a set up of newsrooms at three international news organizations. The participants were 116 English\-speaking journalists who worked with UGC.

Dr Anthony Feinstein, who led the team of researchers at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, said: "Previous research among war journalists revealed elevated rates of PTSD and major depression compared to domestic journalists with little exposure to personal threat or violence. Our research shows that exposure to violence, albeit indirect, in a group of UGC journalists is an important determinant of psychopathology."

None of the new organizations involved in the study attempted to focus on more experienced journalists in the direction of a news story - where the chance of viewing extreme violence is high.

Dr Feinstein said: "Given that good journalism depends on healthy journalists, news organisations will need to look anew at what can be done to offset the risks inherent in viewing UGC material. Reducing the frequency of exposure may be one way to go."

The study was documented in JRSM Open.

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