High perceived stress and social interaction behaviour among young adults. A study based on objective measures of face-to-face and smartphone interactions

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Stress and mental health problems impede social functioning and may also complicate relationship formation with peers. The aim was to investigate whether high perceived stress among young adults is associated with social interaction behaviour both via face-to-face interaction and via smartphone interaction. The data was derived from the Copenhagen Network Study, where 535 first-year students (mean age 21.3, 77% male) self-reported on perceived stress at baseline and were subsequently followed for three months with continuous Bluetooth recordings of face-to-face interactions and smartphone interactions (calls and texts) measuring the network size, frequency, and duration of interactions. Logistic regression was used to assess associations between perceived stress (high/low) and social interactions adjusting for sex, age, and personality traits. Participants with high perceived stress were more likely to engage in a larger call and text network and have a higher call and text frequency compared to individuals with low perceived stress. We found a non-statistically significant tendency that participants with a high perceived stress level spend less time meeting face to face with peers. Stressed students engage in frequent smartphone interaction which may be explained by a social support seeking behaviour, or it may be that accommodating a large network via the smartphone is stress-inducing.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0218429
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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