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Constant connections are stressful - tune out

A recent survey by Pew Research Center study reported that stress is contagious via social media, especially for women.

If your news feed is making you feel anxious, guilty, envious or stressed-out, you are not alone; the research calls it "the cost of caring."

"The rise of social media platforms makes people more aware of events in the lives of their close friends and family, as well as in the lives of more socially distant acquaintances. Learning about undesirable events such as a friend or family member getting fired, losing someone close to them, divorce or illness can result in higher feelings of stress," says Robyn Farrell, Executive Head of 1st for Women Insurance.

Surprisingly, increased stress levels are not associated with the frequency of people's technology use, or even how many friends' users have on social media platforms. The use of digital technology linked to stress is tied to the awareness of stressful events in the lives of others.

The research showed that women who were aware that:

    • Someone close to them experienced the death of a child, partner or spouse scored 14% higher on the survey's measure of stress
    • Someone close has been hospitalised or experienced a serious accident or injury reported 5% higher stress
    • An acquaintance had been accused of or arrested for a crime scored 11% higher on the stress measure

    • An acquaintance experienced a demotion or cut in pay reported 9% higher stress in their own lives

For men, only two events predicted stress:

    • Someone close to them had been accused of or arrested for a crime scored 15% higher on our measure of stress

    • An acquaintance had experienced a demotion or pay cut at work report 12% higher stress

"On the flipside, women who use Twitter, e-mail and cellphone picture sharing reported lower levels of stress because sharing through email, sending text messages of pictures of events shortly after they happen and expressing oneself through the small snippets of activity may provide women with an easily accessible coping mechanism," notes Farrell.

Overall, it is important to remember that women who use a number of digital technologies to communicate with others report less stress than women who are non-users.

"There are many benefits of using social media such as feeling more connected, more supported and more involved. Yet, the key word here is moderation. You have to know when to turn off your phone or computer and tune out. This can help women avoid unnecessary and excessive stress," concludes Farrell.

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