You know your most stressful friend, who’s convinced they always have more to do than you? They’re stressing you out. It’s science. A new study from the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences found that stress is contagious, much like the collegiate spread of STDs.
Stress is so contagious that it can be spread not only by people, but by watching certain videos. I knew I stopped watching Mad Men for a reason. That Don Draper did not have me looking forward to my week. Stress is basically the new yawning. You can catch it just from observing your overworked boss or talking to your overwrought mother. Whether it’s someone you love or a total stranger (i.e. your mother or your boss), stress has the power to come your way via observation alone.
The study examined how people deal with their loved ones and strangers of the opposite sex experiencing stress. One group was given hard math questions (I can already tell you that I would have failed miserably. One of my high school teachers once told me I’m too pretty to do math, and ever since then its been calculator city), and interviewed to induce stress. I don’t know how they survived, because I’m stressed out just imagining this scenario, because it sounds more like a bad dream than reality. A group of 211 observers watched the tests through a one-way mirror and videos.
95% of people placed under direct stress showed signs of stress, because obviously. The surprising part is that 26% of observers experienced empathic stress. I knew watching “Game of Thrones” on Sunday nights wasn’t good for me. The impact of stress was highest when a subject saw their significant other in a stressful situation (40%), but even watching strangers had stress levels rising by 10%. I knew being single had its perks.When observers watched the stressful events on video, 24% were stressed, showing that Netflix might not be the relaxing activity of our dreams. Now, if you’re looking to get out of an assignment with someone awful at work, just say that you’re afraid of catching something.