Second-hand Stress: Study Says Stress is Contagious

By: Lanetra Bennett
August 1, 2014

Tallahassee, FL - You've heard of second-hand smoke. But, what about second-hand stress. A new study that says stress is as contagious as the common cold.

Katie Sokolowski says she gets a little stressed as an FSU Circus performer. She says, "The rush when you get out there, and hearing the audience, it kind of just goes away."

Anyone watching her may be just as nervous, if not more. New research says stress is contagious. The study calls it secondhand stress.

FSU Circus performer John Halfaker says, "Watching some people perform or tumble or balance or anything like that, normally I'm on the edge of my seat. If somebody else is nervous or if somebody else is a in a stressful situation, some of that kind of comes across."

Saint Louis University's research says cortisol levels spike in those under pressure "and" the people watching it happen.

"I definitely get more nervous when I watch other people." Says, Sokolowski.

The study says although complete strangers can "catch" stress from each other, you are four times more likely to develop secondhand stress from someone that you know; which has big implications for our home, work, and school lives.

Tallahassee resident Mathew Ennis says, "When my girlfriend's got like a huge project or something. I feel like until she gets it done, I'm going to be stressed for her."

Dan Pruitt's fiancé can probably relate. Pruitt's had two of Career Cast's top three most stressful jobs: Firefighter and military personnel.

Pruitt says, "It's hard not to go home and have that on your mind, a dead child you may have seen or somebody's loved one involved in a serious accident. All these range of emotions that you see and you kind of carry on your shoulders, yeah, we go home and those are the shoulders we cry on."

Our newsroom is home of hustle and bustle, stress and mess. But, by the time you see us on television, we've made sure not to pass any stress on to you.

The research concluded that stress could be passed on through facial expression, voice frequency, touch and even odor.


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