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Jul 24, 2014 12:16 PM EDT

Using Media to Reduce Stress May Lead to Feelings of Guilt, Failure

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Watching TV or playing a video game to relax or decompress can lead to feelings of guilt and failure, according to a recent study.

Researchers at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany and VU University Amsterdam found that people who had high stress levels after work and used media as a stress reducer did not feel relaxed or recovered, but had high levels of guilt and feelings of failure.

"Our present study is an important step towards a deeper understanding of this. It demonstrates that in the real life, the relationship between media use and well-being is complicated and that the use of media may conflict with other, less pleasurable but more important duties and goals in everyday life," researcher Leonard Reinecke of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz said in a statement. "We are starting to look at media use as a cause of depletion. In times of smartphones and mobile Internet, the ubiquitous availability of content and communication often seems to be a burden and a stressor rather than a recovery resource."

For the study, researchers surveyed more than 400 participants to think about the preceding day and report how they had felt after work and what media they had used.

They found that people who were particularly fatigued after work or school showed a higher tendency to feel that their media use was a form of procrastination. They felt that they succumbed to their desire of using media instead of taking care of more important tasks. As a result, they had a higher risk of feeling guilty about their media use. These feelings of guilt diminished the positive effects of media use and reduced recovery and vitality after media use.

The findings were recently published in the Journal of Communication

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