Women are more affected by bad news and can also remember the details better than their male counterparts, according to new research. The study, which is one of the first to look at the body's response to negative media, included 60 men and women who were shown news articles of accidents and murders.
Researchers found that women react to bad news with more stress than men. They say that the reason could be that women are more empathetic and have evolved to be more vigilant and think about situations that threaten them and their children.
Canadian researchers from the University of Montreal gave participants a selection of articles from Montreal's newspapers. Some of the articles were judged to be emotionally neutral, like a story about a film premiere or the opening of a new bridge, and others were more upsetting about events such as murders or accidents.
Researchers took saliva samples from the participants before and after they read the stories to check for any changes in levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
The next day, researchers had asked participants recall as many of the news headlines from the day before. They found that while women and men remembered the neutral stories at about the same rate, women were twice as likely as men to remember negative stories.
"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," lead researcher Marie-France Marin said in a statement.
"Moreover, the women were able to remember more details of the negative stories," she added. "It is interesting to note that we did not observe this phenomenon among the male participants." Researchers writing in the journal PLoS ONE added that women's bodies may have evolved to be alert to danger.
"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," Marin said.
"While our results are specific to women," the researchers wrote, "Future studies should investigate various populations as function[s] of, for instance, gender-based, generational, and other socio-cultural factors that modulate individual differences in propensities towards informing themselves and coping with negative news," researchers wrote.