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Excessive alcohol, caffeine holding journalists back

IANS | Boston |

Journalists' excessive consumption of alcohol and caffeine leads their brains to function below par, but the love for their job protects their mental resilience, MIT scientists claim.

"Journalist's brains compared to other groups showed a lower level of executive functioning – the ability of the brain to regulate emotions, suppress bias, switch between tasks, solve complex problems and think flexibly and creatively," said Tara Swart, professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US.

Swart recruited a group of 31 journalists to carry out a series of tests.

Participants were required to take blood tests, wear a heart rate variability monitor, answer a brain profile questionnaire and record their eating and drinking habits.

Researchers found that the highest functions of journalists' brain were operating at a lower level than the average population.

This was driven by a number of factors including high levels of alcohol, sugar and caffeine consumption (41 per cent of the journalist drank 18 or more units of alcohol a week).

Researchers also found that dehydration affected brain function, as less than five per cent of journalists drank enough water.

However, the pressures of the job do not affect journalists' ability to endure and bounce back from adversities in the long term, researchers said.

This is because journalists believe that their work has meaning and purpose, giving them an edge over other professions by helping them cope with pressurised work and increasing their mental resilience, they said.

Similar studies in groups of bankers traders, telecom and sales executives show that they are less able to cope with pressure than journalist are.

"It's been great to see the role that meaning and purpose plays in achieving mental resilience. There is more that journalists can do to achieve peak performance – implementing a few really simple changes to help their brains perform even better," Swart said.