Go ahead and check those work emails on your smartphone: a new study says it’s time spent checking Facebook and other “personal” social networks that is stressing you out.

It gets worse: the more times you check your smartphone, the higher your stress levels. The study also suggested people who are used to getting lots of text messages and push notifications on their phones will feel stress levels rise if they hit a stretch where their phones are silent. In the worst cases, study subjects experienced “phantom” vibrations when, in fact, they had not received an alert.

Results of the study by University of Worcester psychologist Richard Balding were presented last week. The sample was relatively small – only 100 people, including students and employees in a wide range of occupations – but do demonstrate a link between compulsive behaviors and increased smartphone use.


The problem is also a self-created one. Many people get smart phones to help manage workflow and not be tied to an office or a desk. But as they add apps like Facebook and FourSquare, they find they have an increased and more consuming virtual social life.

Balding, the study’s author, recommended that companies help employees address the problem.

“Smartphone use is increasing at a rapid rate and we are likely to see an associated increase in stress from social networking,” he told the British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology Conference in Chester, England last week. “Organisations will not flourish if their employees are stressed, irrespective of the source of stress, so it is in their interest to encourage their employees to switch their phones off; cut the number of work emails sent out of hours, reduce people’s temptation to check their devices.”

While other researchers stressed more studies are needed, they agreed the advice that Balding and other experts give is reasonable.

“Now, certainly it’s good to keep connected,” Balding told USA Today. “But everyone needs a break. Some time on your own. Otherwise there’s a risk that the stress and tension that builds up from keeping engaged can end up having a negative impact on relationships.”