U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Media's Role in Broadcasting Acute Stress Following the Boston Marathon Bombings

NCJ Number
E. Alison Holman; Dana Rose Garfin; Roxane Cohen Silver
Date Published
December 2013
6 pages
The degree of acute stress following the Boston Marathon bombings was compared for those directly exposed to the event and those exposed through media coverage.
Adjusting for pre-bombing mental health (collected prospectively), demographics, and prior collective stress exposure, six or more daily hours of bombing-related media exposure in the week after the bombing was associated with higher acute stress than direct exposure to the bombing (continuous acute stress symptom total: media exposure b = 15.61 vs. direct exposure b = 5.69). Controlling for prospectively collected pre-bombing television-watching habits did not change the findings. The authors conclude that repeatedly engaging with trauma-related media content for several hours daily shortly after collective trauma may prolong acute stress experience and promote substantial stress-related symptoms. Thus, mass media may become a means of spreading the negative consequences of community trauma beyond communities directly affected. The authors advised that although it is important to stay informed, watching coverage of a traumatic event repeatedly may exacerbate psychological distress and impede the normal recovery process. This can lead to increased health problems that can extend to individuals living well beyond the communities directly affected by the traumatic event. The study methodology involved an internet-based survey initiated following the Boston Marathon bombings between April 29 and May 13, 2013, with representative samples of residents from Boston (n = 846), New York City (n = 941), and the remainder of the United States (n = 2,888). 2 tables, 1 figure, and 40 notes