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Are our smartphones contributing to a stress epidemic?

Lifestyle | by Denise Timmis | Mar 31, 2022

Are our smartphones contributing to a stress epidemic?

Do smartphones cause stress?

Did you know that more than two thirds of young Britons feel stressed from phones, 35% of 16-24 year olds check their phones every 5 minutes and 57% of 25-34 year olds would find life harder if they didn’t have access to What’s App? Stress Awareness Month, co-ordinated by the Stress Management Society (SMS), is held every April to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic.

We recently conducted an independent survey to closely examine our phone use, and to see how much stress our phones actually cause and what the biggest stressors of our phones are. So let's take a look at the results and see if our reliance on tech really needs to be halted. 


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Unsurprisingly, the survey revealed that more than two thirds of young Britons (67%) feel their phones make them feel stressed. The perfect storm of high amounts of social media use and frequent checking for notifications, combined with a lack of sustained uninterrupted sleep seems to be playing a part in causing young people to be heading towards a stress epidemic. 

The majority of 16-24 year olds revealed they get an average of 6-7 hours of sleep per night with 93% stating they sleep with their phones in their bedrooms. Not only are they not getting enough sleep, but a third are checking their phones more than 7 times per night, leading to interrupted sleep.

 

How can phones cause stress?

  1. No Wi-Fi
  2. Low battery / Phone about to die
  3. Too many notifications pinging throughout the day
  4. Reading the news
  5. Negative comments on your social media posts
  6.  

The following table shows phone users across different age groups and what their biggest phone stressors are.

The Biggest Phone Stressors

Stressor

Overall Stress

16-24

year olds

24-34

year olds

35-44

year olds

 

45-54

year olds

 

55+

year olds

No Wi-Fi

57%

 

67%

67%

65%

56%

45%

Low

battery/phone about to die

53%

 

66%

 

68%

 

66%

 

52%

 

36%

 

Barrage of notifications (pinging)

36%

 

46%

45%

44%

33%

24%

Reading the news

35%

 

44%

49%

44%

28%

23%

Negative comments on your social media post

28%

 

48%

41%

39%

22%

11%

Seeing your friends attend events/parties and you're not there/wasn't invited

25%

 

50%

40%

35%

18%

8%

 

The survey found that people between the ages of 16-34 are more likely to feel stressed over their phones than those aged 35 and older. More than two thirds of people aged 16-34 felt stress over having no Wi-Fi and low battery.

Those figures steadily declined as people got older, although just over half (56%) of 45–54 year olds felt stressed about low Wi-Fi and low battery. Only a third of over 55s felt stressed over having low battery.

But perhaps the most glaring differences between the younger generations compared to the over 55s is the stress felt about feeling left out. Half of 16-24 year olds reported feeling stressed when seeing your friends attend events that they weren’t invited to compared to only 8% of over 55s feeling stressed over this.

 

Do you really need a smartphone?

 

The following table shows phone users across different age groups and what they find the most helpful when it comes to their smartphones.

The Most Helpful Uses for Phones

Use

Overall Helpfulness

16-24

year olds

24-34

year olds

35-44

year olds

 

45-54

year olds

 

55+

year olds

Making important calls

88%

80%

86%

88%

87%

91%

Checking emails

84%

67%

87%

90%

86%

82%

Alerts & Updates

75%

76%

81%

80%

76%

68%

Scrolling on social media

63%

68%

77%

76%

64%

48%

Writing notes

62%

69%

80%

75%

58%

45%

 

71% of Brits feel that their phones are more helpful than a hindrance. The over 55s fall above the national average with 78% stating their phones are more helpful than a hindrance. Only 56% of 16-24 year olds feel that their phone is more helpful than a hindrance. 

The most helpful components of our phones, according to the survey, is making important calls (88%), checking emails (84%), and receiving alerts and updates (75%).

 

Denise Timmis, Brand Manager of Envirofone, said: “Some of the results of this survey are alarming, especially when seeing how much stress people are experiencing when it comes to their phones.  With April being Stress Awareness Month, we have joined forces with Registered Therapist and Certified Psychological Coach, Sarah Tombs, to offer some top tips on how to manage phone use for better mental health. Although the majority of people feel their phones are more helpful than harmful, we still need to put systems in place to manage our phone use to prevent ourselves from becoming a nation of stressed-out Brits.”

 

Top 5 tips for managing phone stress from Sarah Tombs, Registered Therapist and Certified Psychological Coach
 

  • Cultivate healthy boundaries with your phone. Create a new folder on your phone for all news, social media, and email apps. This simple technique removes instant app access away from your home screen and will help you begin to create more intention around how you use your phone; you’ll be less likely to be tempted to check and scroll with icon access out of your natural eyeline.

 

  • Set timers. Many apps allow you to set time usage limits and having this realisation of just how long you’re spending each day will help you build awareness on over usage.

 

  • Become mindful. Focus on one thing at a time rather than multitasking. Many people out of habit will be used to using their mobile phone at the same time as indulging in their daily needs & activities such as eating, drinking and watching TV. This will start to increase your sense of joy and pleasure associated with other activities, rather than those derived from phone use.

 

  • Morning and night phone tactics. To help ease stress levels and prepare for sleep, switch your phone to aeroplane mode before you get ready for bed and limiting screen use to an hour before you go to sleep. If this is too challenging, start by putting your phone away 20 minutes before you sleep and gradually increase this time period the more you become accustomed to this practice. 

 

  • Be intentional with social media. Remember that social media is not real life and often is presented as a ‘highlight reel.’ It can be helpful to keep this at the forefront of our mind when utilising social media and creating intention with how we use the apps. Follow accounts that inspire and help us feel good about ourselves and focusing upon everything good within our lives already.

 


 

Conclusion:

As you can see, everyones mobile experience is completely different depending on how you use your tech. Mobile phones are great for connecting with others, learning new things and being able to capture memories forever. But of course all this comes with negatives. It's impossible in our current world to avoid smart tech, but we can always reduce our intake. 

 

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