The relationship between social media and stress may be more complex than we thought

A new study has challenged the current thinking about the relationship between social media and mental health, as it has been linked to high stress levels of stress in people.

A survey by Pew Research Centre in the USA questioned 1,801 adults to rank their stress levels, as well as assessing their risk of psychological disorders, and checking it against their use of social media.

Many people are worried about the rise in technology and the way it has become integral to our everyday lives. Dependency on it and being constantly linked in and online doesn’t give our minds time to switch off.

However, this new survey found that people with frequent internet and social media use do not necessarily have higher levels of stress. In fact, women were generally found to be the opposite, and that those who use social media are more likely to have better outlets for their stress.

It is widely thought that women are better at dealing with stress than men by naturally being more inclined to discuss their problems with others, compared to men who are more likely to bottle things up. Having access to social media may help women access this self-therapy, by letting them share with others easier.

However, women who use more social media are also more at risk of becoming stressed when their friends or family members are experiencing stressful experiences. Being online, it would seem, helps to make people aware of the issues in others’ lives, and it can bring them down, more drastically in women than in men. This effect is summed up as “the cost of caring.” This also goes to highlight that the naturally occurring support structures between friends can make stress somewhat ‘contagious.’

This shows that social media does not have a direct, simple effect on our stress levels, and that several factors can be involved and have influence. Becoming such a staple, far reaching, invasive aspect of our lives makes it hard to sum it up and pin blame to.

The study indicates that social media may reduce stress in certain cases, or, indeed, increase it in others, depending on the person, their lives, and the lives of their friends.

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