This Mindless Habit Is Sending Your Stress Level Through the Roof
A new report sheds light on how constantly checking your phone may affect your health.
When was the last time you looked at your phone? Ten minutes ago? Two? Just now?
Chances are you're what the American Psychological Association (APA) calls a "constant checker." According to the organization's annual report on stress, 4 out of 5 adults say they check their email, texts, and social media accounts constantly or often. And that mindless habit may take a real toll.
“Today, almost all American adults own at least one electronic device, with many being constantly connected to them,” said Lynn Bufka, PhD, the APA’s associate executive director for practice research and policy, in a press release. “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.”
For the new report, researchers surveyed 3,511 people over the age of 18, and found that stress runs higher among those who are glued to their gadgets. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being "a great deal of stress"), the constant checkers rated their stress level as 5.3, on average. Folks who engaged with tech less frequently reported an average stress level of 4.4.
Workaholics take note: Constant checkers who regularly read their work email (including on their days off) had an even higher overall stress level of 6.0.
The APA report also suggests that constant checkers are more affected by social media, and not in a good way (as you might've guessed): 42% said they worried about the negative effects of social media on their physical and mental health, while only 27% of the "non-constant checkers" shared that concern. (Other research has linked time spent on social media to depression, lower body confidence, and poor sleep.)
If all of this is hitting too close to home, you may want to consider unplugging every once in a while: “Taking a digital detox is one of the most helpful ways to manage stress related to technology use,” Bufka said.
While many of the APA’s survey respondents agreed that unplugging would be a good call for their mental health, only 28% reported actually trying it. But do yourself a favor, and step away from your screen from time to time. (Check out what this Health writer learned when she unplugged for entire weekend!) We promise all the nerve-racking headlines, cute puppy videos, and perfectly plated avocado toast will still be there when you return.