The study, conducted by the Pew Research Institute, reported stress was contagious via social media, particularly for the fairer sex, who are more sensitive to the “cost of caring”.
“The rise of social media platforms make people more aware of events in the lives of their close friends and family, as well as in the lives of more socially distant acquaintances,” said Robyn Farrell, executive head of 1st for Women Insurance.
“Learning about undesirable events such as a friend or family member getting fired, losing someone close to them, divorce or illness can result in higher feelings of stress.”
Surprisingly, increased stress levels are not associated with the frequency of people’s technology use, or even how many friends users have on social media platforms, but are rather tied to the awareness of stressful events in the lives of others, the study found.
The research showed women who were aware that someone close to them had experienced the death of a child, partner or spouse scored 14% higher on the survey’s stress measure.
Someone close being hospitalised or who had been in a serious accident accounted for 5% higher stress levels, with an acquaintance being arrested or accused of a crime or an acquaintance being demoted or taking a cut in pay raised stress levels in women by 11% and 9% respectively.
In men, only the latter two events added to stress levels, by 15% and 12% respectively.
“On the flipside, women who use Twitter, e-mail and cellphone picture sharing reported lower levels of stress because these allowed them to express themselves with an easily accessible coping mechanism,” said Farrell.
Overall, women who used digital technologies to communicate with others reported less stress than women who were non-users, the study found.
“There are many benefits of using social media – such as feeling more connected and more involved. Yet, the key word here is moderation. You have to know when to turn off your phone and tune out,” Farrell said.