21 Jul Go on an information diet for more happiness!
by News Ltd's Keiran Campbell
IT'S no longer just a battle with our ever-expanding waistlines. Australia is on the cusp of becoming a nation of mentally obese.
Alarming new research suggests 25 per cent of people aged between 16 and 34 spend more than 21 hours online every day, with 18 hours the average time spent online a day.
Clinical psychologist Dr Tim Sharp says our ability to function as normal people is being jeopardised by the "scary" amount of time being spent online.
He says people become mentally obese when they are swamped with so much useless information that it begins to affect their happiness and health.
One in four people surveyed attributed nine or more physical and mental ailments to their excessive online activity and a growing number of people were also choosing to ignore the basics of daily life – such as school work, spending time with family and friends, household chores and work productivity – in favour of being online.
"These findings are quite scary but they didn't really surprise us that much," Dr Sharp, the founder of the Happiness Institute, said.
"This is a population, an age group of people that has grown up not knowing a life that wasn't connected (online)."
As well as anxiety and stress, people surveyed said they suffered from lethargy, sleep disturbances, pain and numbness in their hands, and back or neck aches.
The research, conducted by Pureprofile for news congregation app NewsLoop, surveyed 1029 people aged between 16 and 34.
Rachael Amesbury concedes she is one of the online addicts who worries her unquenchable thirst for the internet is unhealthy.
The 29-year-old accounts director for a Sydney media agency describes her relationship with technology as "very close".
"I'd say it's borderline obsession," Ms Amesbury, of Waterloo, said.
"I'm on my phone mostly, but then I sit in front of a computer all day so I'm always online looking at emails, always flicking between various web pages.
"It's kind of nonstop."
Facebook is her biggest time drainer, followed closely by other social networking sites, news websites and online shopping.
It has become normality but Ms Amesbury worries it is starting to ruin parts of her life.
"I'd love to cut down, I'd love to have a real life as well as an online life.
"I feel like my health suffers. I feel like I'm not sleeping as well as I could be because I'm always wired and I feel like it's a hunger … I'm always hungry for information.
"I just need to find out what my friends are doing. It's obsession, it's ridiculous."
BATTLING THE MENTAL BULGE
Dr Tim Sharp's advice to avoid the stress and anxiety of an online overdose:
– Take control – just because you can access the internet any time of the day doesn't mean you should
– Sleep normal hours – anything less than six hours a night is "totally inadequate"
– Limit time spent online by turning off your phone or leaving it away from your bed when you're going to sleep
– Allocate times during the day when you're away from technology, especially being email-free
– Interact more with people in real life and treat your health and well-being as a priority
– 25% spent more than 21 hours online every day
– 18 hours was the average amount of time people spent online every day
– We're interrupted by an average of 36 online alerts and notifications daily
– 25% experience nine or more physical and mental ailments due to excessive online activity
– Almost 39% encountered weight fluctuations due to excessive online activity
– 10% preferred the excitement of the internet to sex with their partner
– 25% feared that life without the internet would be empty and joyless