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If you’re stressed out and you can’t put your finger on
why, it might be worth considering the company you keep. New research shows that stress is highly contagious, not just in how you feel but in the way your body responds physically as well.
If you surround yourself with others who are stressed (either by choice or circumstance), it’s probably affecting your mental and physical health. And get this the same holds true for watching stressful situations on television.
‘Astonishing’ Demonstration of Empathic Stress
The new research, published in the journal
Psychoneuroendocrinology,1 revealed that simply observing someone else in a stressful situation typically elicits an empathic stress response in the observer.
For instance, when observing stressed participants (who were asked to solve difficult arithmetic tasks and engage in interviews) through a one-way mirror, 30 percent of the observers experienced a stress response in the form of an increase in the stress hormone cortisol.
When the observer had a romantic relationship with the stressed participant, the emphatic stress response was even stronger, affecting 40 percent. However, even when observing a stressed stranger, 10 percent of observers felt similarly stressed. The stress response was transmitted not only when observers watched the event live, through a one-way mirror, but also via video transmission.