If you're feeling stressed, put down the mouse and don't click "Inbox." It's the lesson to be learned from a new study that says easing up on email surveillance can reduce physiological stress.
A group of 124 adults, including students, financial analysts and medical professionals, participated in the two-week study in which they answered daily questionnaires about their stress levels.
One group was instructed to limit email checking to three times per day for a week and another was given the green light to check email as often as they could during that week.
One week later, the groups switched.
"Our findings showed that people felt less stressed when they checked their email less often," says Kostadin Kushlev, the study's lead author and a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia's Department of Psychology.
Another finding uncovered by the study is that stepping back from email isn't easy, for Kushlev reports that most participants encountered difficulties with the intervention.
"This is what makes our obvious-in-hindsight findings so striking," says Kushlev. "People find it difficult to resist the temptation of checking email, and yet resisting this temptation reduces their stress."
Kushlev says his personal struggles with email inspired his study.
"I now check my email in chunks several times a day, rather than constantly responding to messages as they come in," he says. "And I feel better and less stressed."
The study was published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.
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