Social media, texts, and emails are stressing Americans out. According to a new report published by the American Psychological Association (APA), constantly checking Twitter, Facebook, phone messages, and email is hurting our mental health.
Labeled “constant checkers,” four out of five adults repetitively check their email, texts, and social media sites, according to the APA report. The association surveyed over 3,000 Americans in August 2016 and found constant checkers have a much higher stress level than those who spend much less time looking at their digital devices.
Using a 10-point scale, constant checkers noted a stress level of 5.3 on average. Even higher, at 6.0, are people who read work email or texts even on days off. Meanwhile, people who do not engage with social media as often report an average 4.4 level. The scale defines one as “little or no stress,” while 10 is “a great deal of stress.”
“The emergence of mobile devices and social networks over the last decade has certainly changed the way Americans live and communicate on a daily basis,” said Lynn Bufka, Ph.D., APA’s associate executive director for practice research and policy, as cited by Voice of America News. “Today, almost all American adults own at least one electronic device, with many being constantly connected to them. What these individuals don’t consider is that while technology helps us in many ways, being constantly connected can have a negative impact on both their physical and mental health.”
The survey results found 42 percent of constant checkers show an increased stress level after reading or taking part in conversations about politics and culture. This is in contrast to the 33 percent who do not interact as often.
Social media may be affecting constant checkers’ well-being. Forty-two percent feel social media is negatively impacting their mental and physical health, while only 27 percent who frequently ignore social media have the same anxiety.
In 2005, only seven percent of adults in the U.S. used social media. Yet, 10 years later, that number swelled to 65 percent. The largest increase, from 12 percent to 90 percent, belonged to the 18 to 29 age group.
The APA report, titled “Stress In America: Coping With Change,” found parents recognize the stressful effects of social media on their children. Nearly 94 percent of parents attempt to limit their child’s usage, and 58 percent say their child is “attached” to social media. Almost 60 percent fear social media is damaging their family’s relationship.
Despite the high number of constant checkers, nearly 66 percent of survey respondents think it is a good idea to unplug from social media once in awhile. Yet, only about 28 percent actually do take a break.
“Taking a digital detox is one of the most helpful ways to manage stress related to technology use,” Bufka said, reported Voice of America. “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 most recent survey also noted significant increases in stress related to the 2016 election, personal safety, police violence, and terrorism. Between August 2016 and January 2017, stress-related symptoms like anxiety and depression increased from 71 percent to 80 percent.
Stress can take quite a toll on the human body and can become a serious health problem. Fatigue, sleep issues, headaches, muscle aches, and chest pain are typical symptoms of stress.
“While these common health symptoms might seem minor, they can lead to negative effects on daily life and overall physical health when they continue over a long period,” said Dr. Katherine C. Nordal, the APA’s executive director for professional practice, per a report from Bustle.
While social media may be a great way to catch up with friends, family, and events, it could be detrimental to your physical and mental health. The APA poll has been taken every year for the past decade.
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