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Sunday, 4 November, 2001, 08:06 GMT
'Too much news is bad for you'
Demand for information has grown in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks
Demand for information has grown the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks
Overdosing on news could cause damage to people's mental wellbeing, an American communications expert has warned.

Dale Brashers, professor of speech communication at the University of Illinois says people want more and more information because of the fears of further terrorist attacks following the September 11 tragedy.

He said: "This is a case in which information may simply cause greater anxiety, particularly if the information forecasts negative consequences or if it is contradictory or unclear."

But a British expert told BBC News Online it can be beneficial for people to find out more about something they are worried about because it helps them deal with their fears.


This is a case in which information may simply cause greater anxiety

Professor Dale Brashers, University of Illinois
Professor Brashers, who wrote 'Communication and Uncertainty Management', published in the Journal of Communication, said it was "perfectly natural" to think gathering information would help reduce uncertainty.

But he added: "Sometimes people need to back away from the onslaught of information."

He said that could be difficult when people want to be vigilant about certain risks, such as the current fears over anthrax.

"This is an area in which the science seems to change from minute to minute," he said.

"So in addition to the uncertainty about the possibility of bioterrorist attacks, we now also have questions - and uncertainty - about expert advice."

'Listen to trusted sources'

Professor Brashers, an expert in 'uncertainty management' said people had to try to balance being vigilant with avoiding "obsessive information seeking".

He said: "People should listen to trusted sources, realise that media sources may be inaccurate because they are trying to disseminate information rapidly and - from time to time - verify information through health agencies."


If you reduce the uncertainty, you feel more in control - and if you feel more in control, you feel less anxious

Professor Barrie Gunter, University of Sheffield
Barrie Gunter, a British Psychological Society spokesman and professor of journalism studies at the University of Sheffield, said information about the current situation was being brought to people "quite legitimately".

He said people did often feel better if they knew more.: "If you're in a highly anxious atmosphere, you will seek information to help you.

"If you can understand more about the causes of a particular situation, it reduces the uncertainty.

"And if you reduce the uncertainty, you feel more in control - and if you feel more in control, you feel less anxious."

See also:

31 Oct 01 | Americas
Terror alerts worry US press
22 Aug 01 | Health
Panic attack gene breakthrough
13 Oct 99 | Medical notes
Anxiety disorder
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