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Worried About Missing Something Online? Well, You Should Worry About That, Too

Social media a source of stress for many—especially millennials

March 2, 2017 | Demographics | Social Media

Blame FOMO (fear of missing out) or the pressure of a technological age, but the time that US adults spend with social media continues to rise—and for some that’s not a good thing.

A new study from the American Psychological Association (APA) found that the constant connection that social media offers has brought about increased stress levels in a significant number of people.

According to Nielsen, the time that US adults spent with social media each week jumped 36% between Q3 2015 and Q3 2016, to an average of 5 hours, 30 minutes. However, 43% of US adults reported to the APA that they’re constantly checking their social media accounts, along with their emails and texts.

The study found that these “constant checkers” are likely to report having higher stress levels than those who do not engage online as often.

The sources of anxiety will be familiar to anyone who engages in online activity: political and cultural discussions on social media; the negative effects social media can have on physical and mental health; and feelings of disconnection from family, even during in-person gatherings.

US Internet Users Who Worry About the Negative Effects of Social Media on Their Physical/Emotional Health, by Generation, Aug 2016 (% of respondents in each group)

Millennials are much more likely than older generations to be concerned about the downside of social media. The APA report found that nearly half said they worry about the ways it can affect their physical and mental health, compared with 37% of Gen Xers and 22% of baby boomers.

Millennials were also more likely than Gen Xers and baby boomers to report that they felt disconnected from their family because of technology, even when they were physically together. This generation also reported the highest stress level related to technology in general, according to the APA

It makes sense that millennials have a greater tendency to report higher technology-related stress levels—they spend more time with technology. According to Nielsen, millennials spend an average of about 18 hours online with their smartphones per week, compared with the 15 hours that total consumers spend.

The APA also found that millennials are much more likely to say they feel attached to their mobile devices than older generations. Nearly two-thirds of millennials agreed with this statement, compared with 47% of Gen Xers and 26% of baby boomers.

Alison McCarthy

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