Poll: Women who use social media heavily report lower stress levels

Poll: Women who use social media heavily report lower stress levels

The fear of missing out has been greatly exaggerated.

In general, people who frequently used the Internet, cellphones and social media are no more stressed than adults who used those digital technologies less or not at all, according to a poll from the Pew Research Center released Thursday.

The survey of 1,801 adults did find one notable exception: Women who shared photos on their phones and were heavy Twitter and email users scored 21% lower on a stress measure than women who didn't use those technologies. 

"Women in general report higher levels of stress to begin with and women can have multiple demands. This could be a benefit of connectedness." said Keith Hampton, a professor at Rutgers University and one of the study's researchers."

However, the survey does note that social media can make some users more aware of stressful events in their friends' lives that can in turn lead to higher stress levels for users. The report calls this the "cost of caring."

The report found that women report higher levels of stress than men in general and tend to be more aware of stressful events -- like a death or serious accident -- in the lives of friends and family.

For example, a woman with an average-size network of Facebook friends -- 329 in this study -- is aware of 13% more stressful events in the lives of her close friends compared to a woman who doesn't use the social network.

There was also a difference between which technologies make men and women aware of stressful events.

Women were likely to be made aware of stressful events by Pinterest or Twitter while men's awareness was likely to be related to text messaging, email or LinkedIn.

Facebook was the one technology that for both men and women provided higher levels of awareness of stressful events.

The use of the photo-sharing app Instagram by women was the only case that was found to predict lower levels of awareness of major events in the lives of acquaintances, according to the report. 

Controlling for other factors, a woman who uses Instagram is aware of 62% fewer major events in the life of her friends than someone who doesn't use the app.

The report asked participants 10 questions about how unpredictable or overloaded their lives were and measured the responses on a scale used by academics to measure stress levels.

Lee Rainie, director of Internet, science and technology research at the Pew Research Center, said the poll was full of eye-opening results. 

"A number of things genuinely surprise me here," he said.  

Follow @jpanzar 

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