General, Research, Technology

How does reading bad news affect health?

I do not know about you, but I have a daily viewNews feeds sometimes evoke associations with a real apocalypse. Judge for yourself: on April 20, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Gebreyesus, said that “the worst consequences of the pandemic are yet to come”; sleeping volcanoes all over the planet wake up one after another; fires raged recently in the exclusion zone of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant (fortunately, they managed to put out them), and the impending economic crisis is like a cherry on a cake, crowning this coming “end of time”. But how does such news affect health? Scientists believe that during the CoVID-19 pandemic, reading bad news can lead to a decrease in immunity. Let me remind you that it is immunity that is our main weapon in the fight against the pandemic of the new coronavirus.

Red pill - pandemic news, blue pill - memes with seals

What is the nocebo effect?

The scary stories about CoVID-19 are coming thatcalled, from "all the irons." According to psychologists, this can cause the so-called “nocebo effect” (the opposite of the “placebo effect”) - when we feel worse, simply because we expect it. Although data on the impact of nocebo on the course of a pandemic are not available today, it is possible that it is quite common. I explained how and why the placebo effect works in my previous article.

According to The Conversation, in 2018The results of a study published in the journal of the US National Institute of Health showed that people living in countries with a large number of requests to Google about the side effects of statins - drugs to fight high cholesterol in the blood - were more likely to report intolerance. The authors of the work concluded that the impact of online information contributed to these adverse effects.

Nocebo and placebo are two sides of the same effect?

However, I would not write off everything on the Internet. The fact is that both effects, both placebo and nocebo, are likely to be part of human nature. So, one of the most striking examples of the nocebo effect, bordering on hypochondria, is described in the work of Jerome K. Jerome “Three in a boat not counting a dog”, When the protagonist went to the British Museum to read about ways to treat some trifling disease, like hay fever (pollen allergy):

I wanted to know why I was still sick. I read about the dance of St. Witt and found out, as one would expect, that he was sick with this disease. Being interested in my condition, I decided to research it thoroughly and began to read in alphabetical order. I read about ataxia and learned that I had recently contracted it and that an acute period would come in two weeks. Fortunately, I suffered from a brighter disease in a mild form and, therefore, I could still live for many years. I had diphtheria with serious complications, and I, apparently, have been ill with cholera since early childhood.

I conscientiously worked through all twenty-six letters of the alphabet and made sure that the only disease I did not have was kneecap inflammation.

Another major study examinedthe death of 28,169 Chinese-American adults in California. The authors of the study found that those who believed that their astrological year of birth made them more susceptible to disease, died much earlier, by 1.3-4.9 yearsthan people of the same sign born in other years. Researchers concluded that “psychocultural factors” (belief in Chinese astrology) influence mortality.

Hypochondria - This is an obsession about the presence of a particular disease.

Coronavirus and Nocebo Effect

Positive test for CoVID-19 in combination withThe initial symptoms of a cold and disturbing news of a pandemic in the media can aggravate coughing, fever, pain, and shortness of breath. Shock caused by negative information can even accelerate death in critically ill patients, exacerbating cardiovascular disease or affecting the respiratory system already attacked by SARS-CoV-2 virus. Is it any wonder that healthy people are afraid of the first minor symptoms of a cold and seek help in a hospital - where they are almost guaranteed to become infected with CoVID-19 or something else. Introduced rules of self-isolation and social distance, which are associated with illness and death, can also exacerbate the effects of the disease on the body.

Be careful not to take medicine

And yet, today, scientists are increasingly understanding hownocebo effect works. Thus, negative information from an authoritative source can cause the development of certain symptoms, for example, pain or shortness of breath. In this case, the cause of the symptoms may be the very expectation. Certain neurotransmitters are responsible for this - chemicals in the human brain that cause increased sensitivity to pain and other unpleasant symptoms. Fear and anxiety reinforce this process.

By the way, recently I wrote about the phenomenonpsychogenic death or “voodoo death”, which occurs when fear activates the “fight or flight” reaction in the body. Among other things, this leads to an acceleration of the heart rate and an increase in blood pressure.

A study comparing aspirin andsulfinpyrazone for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, showed that patients who reported side effects were six times more likely to drop out of the study due to side effects. Later, dozens of other studies showed that there were fewer negative side effects when patients were not told about them. Of course, in the future, scientists will study in detail the effect of the nocebo effect on the course of the pandemic, but for now, let's read less negative news, because our channel in Yandex.Zen regularly contains interesting articles about the latest discoveries from the world of science and high technologies, which you will not find on the site .