Electronic ties increase stress levels

By Catherine Robertson Souter
April 1st, 2017

Although election stress runs high, the highest amount of stress is with Americans who are too tied to their electronic devices.

According to the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America Survey, people who constantly check email, texts and social media accounts report stress levels of 5.3 out of 10. Those who check less frequently reported a level of 4.4 on average.

The results are even worse for workers who can’t seem to get away from the job. According to the study, for employed Americans who maintain constant close contact with work, stress levels run at an average of 6.0 out of 10.

“Adults who check email even their day off, checking on weekends or nights, reported the highest levels of stress among all who responded to the survey,” said Vaile Wright, Ph.D., a member of APA’s Stress in America team.

The study, part of an annual look at the amount of stress faced by Americans and how that affects health and well-being, was conducted in August in partnership with Harris Poll. This year’s main study focused primarily on the effects of technology on stress levels.

According to the results, we can’t seem to put our phones down with more than four out of five adults responding that they constantly check email, texts and social media accounts.

That cross-over between the constant usage and a seemingly endless barrage of political posts, emails and news reports only exacerbates the political stress, the study shows. Forty-two percent of people who check constantly list political and cultural posts on social media as significant contributors to stress and the same amount also worry about negative effects of social media on their health, both physical and mental.

It is time to unplug, is the answer, according to 65 percent of respondents even though only 28 percent of them actually do so.

“People are anxious about a situation and then go to learn more about it but that strategy often backfires,” said Phil Levendusky, PhD, ABPP, director of psychology training at McLean Hospital. “It is like adding more wood on the fire.”

The survey showed that Americans are concerned about the next generation when it comes to technology as well.

More than half (58 percent) of parents surveyed said they feel their children are too attached to their phones or tablets and about half (48 percent) claim that they are in a constant fight with their children to cut back on screen time.

While nearly all (94 percent) say they do institute at least one rule to regulate screen time during the school year, about half (45 percent) say they still feel disconnected from their families, even when in the same room with them because of technology.


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