'FOMO': Heavy social media use leading to depression among teens

Text messages ending with a full stop are perceived as being less sincere, researchers say. Source: PA Wire

The Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) is leading to higher levels of anxiety among heavy social media users, particularly teenagers, a new report has found.

The finding is one of a number documented in the fifth annual National Stress and Wellbeing in Australia Survey, which has documented the impact of social media use on wellbeing for the first time the last year. 

Over half (53 per cent) of Australian teenagers surveyed said they used social networking sites for 15 minutes before sleeping every night.  

According to the report by the Australian Psychological Society (APS), one in two Australian teenagers suffer from FOMO (the Fear of Missing Out). 

APS clinical psychologist Andrew Fuller said while there are benefits to using social media, heavy use can be harmful to a person's wellbeing.

"More than half of all Australian teenagers (56%) are heavy social media users. They reported benefits including stronger relationships, more effective goal setting, ability to seek help through social media, as well as feeling part of a global community," Mr Fuller said.

"However, those teens who were heavy users also reported higher levels of FOMO.  They report fearing their friends were having more rewarding experiences than them (54%), being worried when they find out their friends are having fun without them (60%), and being bothered when they miss out on a planned get together (63%)."

More Aussies gambling to relieve stress

The report also found that more Australians are gambling as a form of stress relief then in 2011 even though, among many causes of stress listed, the top cause was personal financial issues.

"If they often have severe levels of depression or anxiety, generally what they are doing is turning to addictive behaviours," Australian Psychological executive director, Professor Lyn Littlefield said.

"Really at the time you are doing it, it blots out what you're worried about... These behaviours don't solve them, it's an escape."

Nearly 20 per cent of those who took part in the Stress and Wellbeing in Australia Survey 2015 said they had used gambling to relieve stress, an increase of six per cent in four years.

Professor Littlefield said electronic gaming machines, or pokies, and the normalisation of gambling are central to forming addictive behaviours.

"They are disproportionately located in the lower socio-economic areas which is really worrisome because often vulnerable people, particularly financially vulnerable people, live in those areas."

She said the design of pokies was central to their addictive nature.

"Every five hits you are going to get something, you just don't know when so you keep trying."

Those who reported extremely severe levels of anxiety, distress and depression used addictive behaviours such as drinking, smoking, taking drugs and gambling to relieve stress at much higher rates than others.

Professor Littlefield said governments needs to do more to protect people from the impacts of gambling.

Survey results

Anxiety symptoms are the highest they have been for five years and wellbeing has not improved since the survey began.

Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) was seen as affecting the wellbeing of social media users - particularly in teens.

Close to 60 per cent of teens have trouble sleeping or relaxing after accessing social media sites and a similar number feel burnt out by constant connectivity.

Nearly half of Australian teens feel that their peers are having more rewarding experiences than them.

Wellbeing improved with income, education and and employment but young people, 18-25, have for five years reported the lowest level of wellbeing.

The most common way of relieving stress since 2011 was watching TV or movies.

Friends or family were said to be the most effective in relieving stress.

Although 72 per cent of those surveyed said they felt stress impacted on their physical health, more than half said they did not seek help with it.

Source: Australian Psychological Society's Stress and Wellbeing in Australia Survey 2015.

Source: AAP

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch