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Why Do Social Networks Increase Stress?

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It’s hard to remember life before social media. How did we ever know what our distant, high school friends’ kids looked like? Or what they cooked their family for dinner? Or the fabulous places they visited on their seemingly-bi-monthly tropical vacations?

Although Facebook and Twitter feel almost ubiquitous today, according to the Pew Foundation, only 60 percent of Americans belong to a social network (For the record, our data says 61 percent but we’ll defer to Pew). Shockingly, that means well over one-third of people in the U.S. may never see a picture of their niece’s swimming trophy or know if that guy they met at the conference is nearing his two-year job anniversary.

But, are the 40 percent of Americans who are un-networked really worse off? Are the active tweeters and status updaters living a more enriched life or a more stressful one? We dug into our piles of data to shed some light on these questions.

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We quickly found that social network users are, in fact, 14 percent more likely than non-users to characterize their lives as at least “somewhat stressful.” Non-users, conversely, are 28 percent more likely than users to say their lives are “not at all” stressful. Clearly, there is a strong association between social media and stress, but why? I’m glad you asked.

Here are a couple possibilities:

KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES

Like it or not, social media is one of the most prevalent ways people learn about new movies, music, fashion, books, or other products. Twenty-eight percent of people say their friends on social media influence the music they listen to, 36 percent the TV shows and movies they watch, and 36% the brands and products they buy.

All of this influence appears to correlate closely with stress. People who say social media influences the products they buy “a lot” are 45 percent more likely to say their lives are “very stressful.” Maybe we can’t afford all the fancy new products our friends are buying. Maybe we’re too busy to follow the trends in music or fashion. Whatever the reason, it’s evident that the more we pay attention to our friends’ activities, tastes, and possessions, the more stress we report in our lives.

KEEPING UP WITH YOUR “SELF”

There’s a secondary, if unconscious, effect of all this social media influence: We feel pressured to portray our ideal selves for everyone to see. When surveyed, 40 percent of social media users admitted they often post/share things to improve their image. Honestly, how often do you see someone check-in at Dollar General, boast about their job demotion, or post pictures of the frozen chicken nuggets they microwaved for their kids? Seldom, right? Instead, we tend to highlight the positive aspects of our lives and personalities, if only to compete with everyone else who is doing the same thing.

This need to measure and curate our social media persona has a strong association with stress. People who say they post things on Facebook or Twitter to improve their image are over 4.5 times more likely than other people to “always” feel stressed.

KEEPING UP WITH THE NSA

Maybe the lack of privacy and discretion in social media is driving up our stress levels. When nearly every part of our lives is only a cell-phone-camera-click away from being viral content, are we doomed to high anxiety? Our data suggests this is possible. For example:

  • Social network users who are “very concerned” about consumer privacy are 20 percent more likely to characterize their lives as “very stressful.”

  • 83 percent of people believe Facebook does the worst job of protecting their privacy, compared to 11 percent who say Google, and 6 percent who say Apple.

  • 69 percent of Facebook users do not believe the social network does enough to protect privacy.

  • 77 percent of Americans do NOT believe employers should be able to review Facebook profiles as part of the job application process (even though they do).

Obviously, most people with extreme privacy concerns never join social networks in the first place. That might just be too much anxiety for them to handle.

KEEPING UP WITH TECHNOLOGY

Finally, simply being “plugged in” all the time is a major stress-driver. Consider that 51 percent of U.S. adults admit to being addicted to their digital devices, which they use primarily to be connected to the rest of the world. These addicts are 32 percent more likely than non-addicts to consider their lives at least somewhat stressful. What’s more, social network users who are addicted to their digital devices are 76 percent more likely than average to say their lives are at least somewhat stressful.

KEEPING IT IN PERSPECTIVE

Using free services like Twitter or Facebook is a trade-off. We get to keep in touch with friends and read some great content; but we lose a lot of discretion and privacy as a result. We just need to keep it in perspective. Remember the earlier stat that 40% of people post things to improve their image? When asked the question differently, 77% of people (almost 2X more) believe that their friends DO post things to improve their image. You know your friends’ lives aren’t any more perfect than yours, so don’t let it stress you out. Put down your device every once in a while and enjoy the life you have.

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Health & Lifestyle

Sports head injuries Balanced reportage is required – Experts

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A group of more than 60 leading international neuroscientists, including Mark Herceg, PhD, a neuropsychologist at Northwell Health’s Phelps Hospital in Sleepy Hollow, NY, and a member of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, published a correspondence today in The Lancet Neurology, asking for balance when reporting on sports-related injury chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a type of dementia associated with exposure to repeated concussions, and has been linked with a variety of contact sports such as boxing, football, American football and rugby.



Although CTE is commonly featured in the news media and discussed among peers, the medical community is just beginning to understand how to recognize the disease, guidelines for how to assess its severity have yet to be established.

“We don’t currently have a clear understanding of the link between CTE pathology and any specific symptoms,” noted Dr. Herceg. “It’s important to note to the public at large that CTE is at an early stage of scientific and medical understanding, with many important aspects of the disease yet to be established.”

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“Dr. Herceg and his colleague’s CTE research is timely and impactful as a major step forward to more clearly defining the risk and prevalence of this important syndrome,” said Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institute.

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-Northwell Health

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Health & Lifestyle

Mother bags 4 years jail term for drawing son’s blood.

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A Danish court on Thursday sentenced a mother to four years in jail for aggravated abuse for having unnecessarily drawn a half-litre (one pint) of blood from her son weekly for five years.

A trained nurse, the 36-year-old woman began drawing her son’s blood when he was 11 months old, averaging about once a week for the next five years.

The mother said she would not appeal the verdict handed down by the district court in the western town of Herning.



“It’s not a decision that I took consciously. I don’t know when I started doing what I had no right to do. It came gradually. I threw the blood down the toilet and put the syringes in the garbage,” she told the court.

The boy, today aged seven and who lives with his father, suffered an intestinal illness shortly after birth but as the years went by doctors could not explain why he had so little blood in his system.

To remedy the situation, doctors gave him 110 blood transfusions over the years.

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They eventually grew suspicious of the mother, and police began investigating her.

She was arrested in September 2017 carrying a bag of blood.

On social media, she had presented herself as a single mother fighting for her sick son.

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Psychiatric experts told the court they believed the mother suffers from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a rare condition in which a person, usually a mother, fabricates an illness for a dependent and puts them through unnecessary medical treatment.

However, they deemed her healthy enough to go to prison.

She has been barred from the nursing profession.

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