Media Coverage of Gaza War Increased Chronic Pain

Zalman Aran library in Ben-Gurion University

If you suffer from chronic pain, watching news media coverage of war will only make it worse, according to a small study by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.

“Does War Hurt? Effects of Media Exposure After Missile Attacks on Chronic Pain,” was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology In Medical Settings.

The study assessed 55 chronic pain patients treated at an Israeli pain clinic. The patients completed questionnaires regarding their pain, depression and anxiety before and after three weeks of missile attacks during Operation Cast Lead, the 2008  Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip. During the Israeli offensive, Hamas fired rockets and mortars against civilians in southern Israel.

Researchers found that exposure to media coverage of the war predicted an increase in pain intensity and in the sensory component of pain, but did not predict depression or anxiety.  Stress and media exposure were also strongly related, suggesting that the amount of television viewing related to the attacks may have influenced how much stress the individual experienced.

“Patients’ previous levels of emotional distress may affect their ability to cope with stressful situations, making stressors more prominent and influencing them to seek out more information about the situation,”  said Professor Golan Shahar of the Ben-Gurion University’s Department of Psychology. Shahar and his colleagues say their findings suggest that chronic pain patients are a vulnerable population requiring special attention during terrorism-related stress.

Over 1,100 Palestinians were killed during the Gaza War. Only 13 Israelis died — four of them from friendly fire.


Authored by: Mary Krasn