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Broken hearts love media, while broke people hate it

Washington, June 11 (ANI): A new study suggests that the last thing most people with broken hearts want to do is to read informational articles about romance, but those facing financial difficulties often choose to read articles that may help them cope with their money problems.

The main purpose of the study was to determine whether people use the news media to escape from their problems, or find information on how to cope with them.

It showed that people suffering from emotional problems—such as issues of love and romance—tend to avoid reading articles concerning such difficulties.

However, in cases of less emotional problems, such as those related to finances, people tended to seek out articles that might help them cope.

“People want to avoid reading about topics that may bring up unpleasant thoughts and emotions,” The Age quoted Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, co-author of the study and associate professor of communication at Ohio State University, as saying.

“But people seek out information that may help them find solutions for less personal problems,” Knobloch-Westerwick added.

Conducted in collaboration with German researchers Matthias Hastall, of the University of Erfurt, and Maik Rossman, of the Dresden University of Technology, the study involved 287 college students. 

The students participated in two separate, unrelated studies that were actually part of the same project.

The first study saw the subjects taking a life satisfaction questionnaire, which asked how satisfied they were in five areas of their life: health, finances, friendship and kinship, college and career, and romantic relationships.

In the second, the students were asked to evaluate an online news magazine. 

The magazine had 10 sections, five of which corresponded to the five subject areas that they were questioned about earlier.  Some articles offered hints and guidance on the topic areas, while others highlighted personal stories or statistical information.

The researchers had told the students that they would not have enough time to read all the articles, and thus they should choose to read those they found to be the most interesting ones.

With the aid of a software program, the researchers tracked the articles the participants clicked on and the time they spent on reading them.

Later, the issues participants read about were compared with the issues that were causing them the most problems in their lives.

The researchers observed that people’s satisfaction levels for four of the five life areas influenced whether they wanted to read about those topics. 

According to them, only people’s satisfaction with relationships with friends and relatives appeared to have no effect on reading patterns.

Knobloch-Westerwick revealed that the participants who were in an unhappy romantic relationship avoided any articles about the topic. 

However, she added, people who were happily in love “indulged themselves by reading more about romance.”

Results also showed that people’s health status affected whether they wanted to read health-related articles, as the participants who were either most or least satisfied with their health tended to avoid health-related content. 

The biggest consumers were those whose health status fell somewhere in the middle.

“Healthy people don’t need to read about how to improve their health, and those who feel least satisfied about their health probably think there’s nothing they can do, so they avoid the topic,” Knobloch-Westerwick said.

She further revealed that when considering college, career, and financial matters, people who reported they had greater problems were more likely to read articles about those issues.

“These may be the kind of problems, at least for college students, that are seen just as problems to be solved, and don’t bring up unpleasant emotions.  In this case, they are motivated to read about steps they can take to improve their situation,” she said.

Given that only informational media were involved in the current study, Knobloch-Westerwick insists that other studies need to examine how people’s satisfaction levels affect their use of entertainment media.

“We are really just starting to study about how people use the media to deal with everyday strains,” she said.

The study has been reported in the journal Communication Research. (ANI)

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