Anxiety UK study finds technology can increase anxiety

July 9th, 2012

A set of studies by Anxiety UK, looking at the relationship between technology (i.e. computers, mobile phones, Smartphones and social networking sites) and anxiety, has produced headline grabbing findings. Nearly all of respondents use computers and mobile phones/Smartphones, with a majority of them using the devices primarily for socialising.

“We found this development of interest as even five years ago, using a phone or computer for socialising would not have been as prevalent as it is today,” explains Nicky Lidbetter, Anxiety UK’s CEO. “This shows how important and wide-spread the use of technology has become in keeping in touch with friends and family. And the widespread use of social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, will no doubt play a major part in these findings.”

“For many, many people, the rise of technology has been a big help. Technology, particularly social networks, allows people who are housebound, due to conditions such as agoraphobia, the chance to interact with others far more easily than they were able to in the past. That is a really positive development.”

Conversely, the Anxiety UK study found that over half of respondents who regularly use social networking sites saw their behaviour change negatively. Further investigation revealed factors such as negatively comparing themselves to others, spending too much time in front of a computer, having trouble being able to disconnect and relax, as well as becoming confrontational online, thus causing problems in their relationships or job.

The study also found that 45 per cent of people who are not able to access their social networks or email feel worried or uncomfortable as a result. And perhaps most surprising, 60 per cent of respondents said that they felt the need to switch off their mobiles/computers/Smartphones in order to have a break, with one in three of them saying they switched off several times a day.

“We were surprised by the high proportion of people who found that the only way to ensure a break from the demands of their devices was to switch them off, as they were not capable of simply ignoring them,” explained Ms Lidbetter.

“If you are predisposed to anxiety it seems that the pressures from technology act as a tipping point, making people feel more insecure and more overwhelmed. These findings suggest that some may need to re-establish control over the technology they use, rather than being controlled by it.”

The study into attitudes towards technology in relation to anxiety included 298 people who were polled by Salford Business School at the University of Salford, on behalf of Anxiety UK. Further investigation into how social networks negatively affected behaviour was held on Anxiety UK’s HealthUnlocked community.

If you are interested in finding out more about Anxiety UK’s study, please contact:

Terri Torevell
Communications Officer
media@anxietyuk.org.uk
0161 226 7727 / 07947 599 491