Social media linked to rising stress levels

A survey from the American Psychological Association has warned that constant checking of email, texts and social media is leading to higher levels of stress

Smartphone, Addiction, Teenagers,

Both parents and children responding to the survey claimed they felt compelled to check their phones on the hour [Flickr/wsy_irena]

A new study has linked an excessive use of technology and modern devices amongst Americans to higher levels of stress.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA) more than four out of five adults admit to checking email, texts and social media accounts either often or constantly.

At the higher end of the scale, More than four in ten Americans (43%) were defined as “constant checkers.”

The APA has warned that the phenomenon is leading to higher levels of stress with many respondents saying they worry about negative effects of social media on their mental health.

Graphic: The American Psychological Association

On a 10-point scale, where one is “little or no stress” and 10 is “a great deal of stress,” the average overall stress level for constant checkers is 5.3, compared with 4.4 for those who don’t check as frequently.

Among employed Americans who check their work email constantly on their days off, their reported overall stress level is even higher, at 6.0.

The APA’s associate executive director for practice research and policy, Lynn Bufka said that while technology can be helpful in many ways, being constantly connected can have a negative impact on physical and mental welbeing.

The survey found that approximately 90% or people between the ages of 18 and 29 are now using social media - up from 12% in 2005.

Graphic: The American Psychological Association

Nearly all American adults (99%) own at least one electronic device - including a television.

Almost nine in 10 (86%) own a computer, 74% own an internet-connected smartphone and 55% own a tablet.

Of the social media platforms, Facebook was the most frequently visited with 79% on adults using it last year. 

In second place was Instagram with 32%, then Pinterest and LinkedIn, both on 29%, and Twitter with 24%. 

“Taking a digital detox is one of the most helpful ways to manage stress related to technology use,” said Ms Bufka. “Constant checkers could benefit from limiting their use of technology and presence on social media.”

“Adults, and particularly parents, should strive to set a good example for children when it comes to a healthy relationship with technology.”

The report found that while 65% of Americans agree that periodically taking a digital detox was important – only 28% reported actually doing so.

The turbulent political climate in the US was singled out as a worrying factor online with some 42% of constant checkers saying political and cultural discussion online are causing them stress.