Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the Technische Universität Dresden measured the levels of cortisol (a steroid hormone produced by the body under stress) of people who watched other people in stressful situations through a one-way mirror. About 30% of the observers had a significant increase in their own cortisol levels after watching others under stress. The level of people with such "empathetic" stress ranged from 10% of people who were watching strangers to 40% of people who watched loved ones. About a quarter of the test subjects also had increased levels of cortisol after watching movies containing stressful events.
“The fact that we could actually measure this empathic stress in the form of a significant hormone release was astonishing,” said Veronika Engert, one of the study’s authors. "Stress has an enormous contagion potential."
In case you are thinking that watching students preparing for exams couldn't be the kind of stress agents that could spread to you, think again. The "stressful situation" in the original study was having to solve challenging math problems. (Sigh....poor math. Maria Droujkova and Vi Hart really have their work cut out for them.)
So maybe your children's intense preparation for finals and the other tests at this time of the year really are responsible for at least some of your stress right now. Just don't think that watching episodes of Game of Thrones is going to make things any better.