Love True Crime? New Data Says It Could Be Doing This To Your Brain

Updated: Jun. 16, 2024

You relish the thrill, chill, and disbelief that it's real—but research suggests our collective craze for crime content is feeding another frenzy.

Listening to your favorite murder podcast or watching that based-on-true-story crime series is among the best ways to decompress for up to 50% of Americans, according to 2022 statistics published by Milwaukee’s NPR station. Besides the engaging escapism and guilty pleasure true crime delivers, new research suggests it’s affecting the subconscious in perhaps an unsurprising way. 

Being a voyeur to stories of violence has a unique way of holding your focus in an attention-grabby world—and while, on some level, these accounts can make everyday mundanity feel welcome, new research suggests consuming true crime content is compelling an overwhelming percentage of consumers to glance over the shoulder more often.

If you’re suddenly double-checking locked doors and examining the front porch security footage with scrutiny, a new nationwide survey suggests you’re in good company. The survey sought to pinpoint whether people are experiencing true crime-induced anxiety, and the geographical regions where this worry is trending the highest. Participants were asked whether this type of content increased their unease, followed by a variety of questions designed to gauge the levels of anxiety—such as whether true crime content has prompted them to carry self-defense equipment, take a break from the genre, or become more suspicious of others. The data uncovered some interesting themes.

The researchers report nearly 50% of Americans say true crime content has made them more anxious. Even more, 61% said true crime has made them more suspicious of others, while 78% said it has made them more conscious of their surroundings than before. One-third of fans have even invested in home security measures.

Parts of the South reported the highest anxiety levels: Louisiana was the state with the highest anxiety rating, according to the researchers’ scale, with two in five people reporting that being a true crime fan led them to carry some form of self-defense tool.

In Mississippi, the state with the second-highest true crime anxiety, a quarter of people have had to resort to engaging with true crime during the day because it’s too disturbing for them at night. Mississippi was also the state where most residents reported the greatest need for a break from the content. Texas came in third, with the average Texan admitting they watch, view, or listen to true content an average of six hours per week. 

The survey also drilled down into specific cities with New Orleans coming out on top for the most anxious true crime viewers. In The Big Easy, half of true crime viewers have beefed up their home security and reported they were more likely to share their location with loved ones just in case. In Baltimore, MD, the second-most-anxious city, people were the most likely to take a break from true crime content. People in the third-most-anxious city, Las Vegas, NV, reported a whopping 86% increase in awareness of their surroundings. 

While listening to or watching true crime can be an entertaining way to unwind, this survey underscores its real-life effects. Arm yourself with effective methods to relax, and remember that the occasional break from media can be the actual best way to take your mind off real life.