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APA 2017 Stress in America Survey: How Your Constant Social Media Use Can Have an Impact on Your Mental Health
2017-07-05 09:19:45
Liza Tan

High levels of stress have been associated with the constant use of technology by the American Psychological Association in their Stress in America Survey 2017.

Connectivity has become the center of people’s lives since the innovation of mobile phones which was soon after followed by the launching of the first social media platform.It can now be hard to spot two or even just one person in a group who will not look at their cell phone in half an hour’s time.

In their Stress in America Survey 2017, the American Psychological Association (APA) revealed that about half of the entire population of adults in the US could not imagine how their lives could have turned out to be if smartphones were not invented.At the time of its publication, people are now more likely to engage in communication through social media than in person.

By July 2017, 99% of American adults have been found to own at least one electronic device, while 74% of them own a smartphone with an internet connection

The Connected Population

The survey said about 99 percent of American adults have been identified to own an electronic device and that around 74 percent of them own a smartphone that has an internet connection.Furthermore, it said the number of adults who use social media surged from 7 percent to 65 percent within just 10 years from 2005, and that the frequency of social media usage among those aged 18 to 29 likewise grew significantly from 12 percent to 90 percent within the same period.

On a typical work day, about 45 percent of adults would be constantly connected to at least one device, while on a typical non-working day, 47 percent of adults would be often connected or would check texts, emails, and social media notifications and updates given a spare time.

The 2017 APA stress survey found the number of adult Americans using social media significantly increased within 10 years from 2005.

The Happiness of “Constant Checkers” in Check

The “constant checker” is someone who checks their social media updates as well as emails and texts at a continuous pace.This type of people emerged following the birth of smartphones, Facebook, and Twitter.

The APA survey results unveiled 18 percent of respondents believe there is a link between high levels of stress and constant use of technology, especially during times when this piece of technology they have their hands on is not working.On average, stress levels are lower among adults who are non-constant social media users.

Johan Bollen, an associate professor at the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing, said that their research in relation to the survey suggests “happiness is correlated with popularity, and also that the majority of people on social networks aren't as happy as their friends due to this correlation between friendship and popularity."

He emphasized as well that “it's never been previously shown that social media users are not only less popular than their friends on average but also less happy.”

He said their study found constant social media users have a tendency to experience rising levels of unhappiness and dissatisfaction as a result of their inclination to identify how popular and happy they are by comparing themselves to their friends.

"Happy social media users may think their friends are more popular and slightly happier than they are—and unhappy social media users will likely have unhappy friends who still seem happier and more popular than they are on average," Prof.Bollen said.

Depression and Social Media Use

A study by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine indicated young adults have a higher tendency to develop depression with prolonged use of social media.Another analysis by another team of researchers found adults aged 19 to 32 are more likely to become socially isolated if they spend more time using social media.

"We are inherently social creatures, but modern life tends to compartmentalize us instead of bringing us together.While it may seem that social media presents opportunities to fill that social void, I think this study suggests that it may not be the solution people were hoping for," the director of Pitt's Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health, Brian A.Primack, Ph.D., said.

He also noted that this issue is something that must be discussed, because “mental health problems and social isolation are at epidemic levels among young adults.”

“Unplugging” from Social Media

This year’s APA survey also said many people strongly agree that “unplugging” from the digital world from time to time would be beneficial for mental health.In actuality, however, only about 28 percent of these people refrain from using technology.

What concerns people across generations including Millennials (48 percent), Gen Xers (37 percent), and Baby Boomers (22 percent) among others is the adverse effects of social media on one’s physical and mental health.As suggested by many earlier pieces of research, a person could increase their risk of depression and loneliness if they spend more time checking their social media accounts.

According to Brenda K.Wiederhold, Ph.D., of the Interactive Media Institute in California and Virtual Reality Medical Institute in Belgium, people do not necessarily have to quit social media altogether and should instead focus on changing their conduct in terms of using these platforms.

“Previous studies have shown actively connecting with close friends, whether in real life or on Facebook, may actually increase one's sense of well-being,” she said.


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