Social Media Blamed for Mental Health, Stress Issues

A new study reveals social media use and abuse are hurting Americans' mental health and triggering high stress.

Social media use has skyrocketed from 7 percent of American adults in 2005 to 65 percent in 2015. For those in the 18-29 age range, the increase is larger, from 12 percent to a remarkable 90 percent.

But while an increase in social media usage is hardly surprising, the number of people who just can't tear themselves away is stark. Nowadays, 43 percent of Americans say they are checking their emails, texts, or social media accounts constantly. Their stress levels are paying for it: On a 10-point scale, constant checkers reported an average stress level of 5.3. For the rest of Americans, the average level is a 4.4. 

Dr Frieda Birnbaum, a research psychologist, psychoanalyst and author -- and mother of five -- offers these thoughts on why social media use is hurting Americans:

--Social media can be an addiction for some people. When a new e-mail or text message appears on our phones it can trigger a chemical reaction in our brains that bring us joy -- comparable to a feeling when we see delicious food we're about to eat.

--When we constantly check our electronic devices and there are no new messages, or when we pry into the lives of our friends on Facebook and become jealous or insecure seeing how they live, social media can have a negative impact on a person's mental health.

--Some Americans fearful of losing their jobs are more inclined to check work emails over the weekend, which can lead to higher stress levels.

"One simple solution that can help reduce depression and stress from social media is to take healthy breaks from it," Birnbaum says. "Also, whenever you can, try to call someone or see someone in person over texting them."

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