News & Opinion | May 19, 2017 5:05 pm

Journalists Drink Too Much and are Bad at Managing Emotions, Study Finds

Contributing factors are dehydration and self-medication with sugar, caffeine and alcohol.

A new study claims that journalists’ brains show a lower-than-average level of executive functioning—perhaps because they drink too much alcohol and not enough water.

According to Business Insider, this broadly means that they have more trouble regulating their emotions, switching between tasks and showing flexible thinking.

Led by neuroscientist and leadership coach Tara Swart and undertaken in conjunction with the London Press Club, the study only analyzed 40 journalists, but from television, news, broadcast and online platforms. Each person had to keep a food and drink diary for a week, complete a brain profile questionnaire and wear a heart-rate monitor for three days.

The results show that dehydration and the tendency to self-medicate with alcohol, caffeine and high-sugar foods resulted in lower levels of brain operation in the journalists than for the average population. Case in point, 41 percent of the subjects acknowledged that they drank 18 or more units of alcohol a week, which is four above the recommended amount. Plus, less than 5 percent of them drank the recommended amount of water.

It wasn’t all bad news for journalists: During the interview portion of the study, the participants indicated that they felt their jobs had a lot of meaning and purpose. They also showed high mental resilience. Swart said this gives journalists an advantage over people in other professions in dealing with the work pressure of tight deadlines.

This study also doesn’t mean that journalists aren’t skilled. They scored high on abstraction, which is the ability to deal with ideas rather than events. This is the part of the brain where the most sophisticated problem-solving takes place and highlights the ability to think outside the box.

The participating journalists also showed that they were better able to cope with pressure compared with bankers, traders, or salespeople. Deadlines, accountability to the public, unpredictable and heavy workloads and lower pay all make journalism a more stressful profession. However, the results did not show that journalists were more physically stressed than the average person, as shown through normal levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.

In conclusion, the study says that “journalists are undoubtedly subject to a range or pressures at work and home, but the meaning and purpose they attributed to their work contributes to helping them remain mentally resilient despite this.”