Older adults are the largest consumer of cable news, which includes negative and politicized content and may constitute a daily stressor. As older adults are also vulnerable to the negative consequences of stress, we hypothesized that cable news watching could induce a stress reaction and impair cognitive function. We tested exposures to cable news (i.e., Fox News and MSNBC) in a within-subject randomized controlled design in 34 healthy older adults. We also included negative (Public Broadcasting Station) and positive (trier social stress test) controls. Cable news watching had no effect on psychological stress, physiological stress, or cognitive function. This remained true even if the news exposures were discordant with participants' political affiliation. We conclude that brief cable news watching does not induce a physiological or subjective stress response or cognitive impairment among healthy older adults.
Keywords: aging; cognition; cortisol; memory; stressors; television.