HOW AUSTRALIANS ARE COPING WITH LIFE
The findings of the
Society Stress and
wellbeing in Australia
The impact of connectivity to social media
on teens and adults in Australian
List of figures
3.1. Survey participants/timeframe
3.6. Life stage segment variables
3.7. Cross-year data
3.8. Between-group comparisons
3.10. Data presentation, significance and subsample sizes
4. Five years of stress and wellbeing
4.3. Causes of stress
4.4. Stress management
4.4.1. How do we manage stress?
distress, anxiety and depressions symptoms
4.4.4. How do we seek help for stress?
4.5.1. Across five years in Australia
4.5.4. By level of education
4.5.6. By annual income
4.5.7. Workplace wellbeing
5. Stress and wellness in 2015
5.2. Wellness in 2015
6.1. Key findings
6.2. Teen social media use
6.5. Adult social media usage
Appendix A: Sample statistics
Table 1: Sample Sizes for Main Survey and Standalone FoMO Survey
Table 2: Sample Proportions for Teen Connection to Social Media
Table 5: Sample Sizes for Teen Age Group
Table 6: Sample Sizes for Adult Gender
Table 7: Sample Sizes for Adult Age Group
Table 8: Life Stage Segments and Criteria for 2015
Table 10: Workplace Wellbeing
Table 11: Wellness Prevalence by Gender, 2015
Table 13: Social Media Average Usage by Teens During Periods of the Day, 2015
Table 15: Prevalence of FoMO by Age Group, 2015
Table 17: Location of Survey Participants in 2015
Figure 1: Aggregate Measures of Stress, Distress, Depression and Anxiety, 2011-2015
Figure 4: Average DASS-21 Anxiety Scale Category Prevalence, 2011-2015
Figure 5: Prevalence of Stressors, 2011-2015
Figure 6: Ways of Managing Stress %, 2011-2015
Figure 8: Stress Reliever % by K10 Distress Category
Figure 11: Prevalence % of Help Sought to Manage Stress, 2011-2015
Figure 12: Perceived % Impact of Stress on Physical Health
Figure 14: Mean Wellbeing Score, 2011-2015
Figure 15: Wellbeing Score by Age Group, 2011-2015
Figure 19: Prevalence of Stressors, 2015
Figure 20: FoMO for Heavy Social Media Users, 2015
Figure 22: Attitudes Toward Social Media Use in Teens, 2015
Figure 23: Prevalence of ‘FoMO’ by Frequency of Social Media Usage in Teens, 2015 heavy vs light
Figure 24: Time Spent Connected to Social Media by Adults and Gender, 2015
Figure 25: Time Spent Connected to Social Media by Adults Age Group, 2015
Figure 26: Social Media Experience in Adults, 2015
The Australian Psychological Society (APS) has conducted its fifth successive
examined the impact of social media on Australians’ wellbeing and behaviour
as well as exploring their experience of the Fear of Missing Out (FoMO)
The half decade snapshot shows that Australians are faring worse than they were in 2011 when the survey
began, reporting lower levels of wellbeing and workplace wellbeing and higher levels of stress, depression and
Australians’ levels of wellbeing have fluctuated over the five years. A slight improvement was recorded in 2014
and 2015 but wellbeing still remains lower than that in 2011 when the APS first surveyed Australians on this
Interestingly, when Australians were asked in 2015 about their wellness across six key life domains (physical,
social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual and vocational wellness), they rated themselves as faring well across
these life areas. Key wellbeing findings over five years include:
: Younger people (18-25) have consistently reported lower levels of wellbeing than older Australians;
: The unemployed report the lowest levels of wellbeing whereas the retirees report the
highest levels of wellbeing;
• Living arrangements
: Australians living with a partner reported significantly higher levels of wellbeing
compared to all other groups (e.g. sole parents, living with parents, etc.);
: Those with children have higher levels of wellbeing than those without children; and
: Wellbeing levels rise with education and income.
Key findings on other measures include:
• 35 per cent of Australians report having a significant level of distress in their lives;
• 26 per cent of Australians report above normal levels of anxiety symptoms;
• 26 per cent of Australians report having moderate to extremely severe levels of depression symptoms; and
• In 2015, anxiety symptoms were the highest they have been in the five years of the survey.
Australians’ worries about money have not abated. Financial issues are rated as the top cause of stress over the
five years, while also of concern is the increase in the number of people turning to gambling to manage stress
(now one in five), growing from 13 per cent in 2011 to 19 per cent in 2015.
People who report higher levels of anxiety and depression symptoms and distress are more likely to gamble,
smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol and take recreational drugs:
• Of those reporting severe levels of distress, 61 per cent drink alcohol, 41 per cent gamble, 40 per cent
smoke and 31 per cent take recreational drugs to manage stress;
• Of those reporting extremely severe levels of depression symptoms, 57 per cent drink alcohol, 46 per cent
gamble, 41 per cent smoke cigarettes and 38 per cent take recreational drugs to manage stress; and
1 FoMO is defined as a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences that you are not part of, and is characterised
by the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing (Przybylski, Murayama, DeHaan, & Gladwell, 2013)
Stress & wellbeing
26 per cent of Australians report having
• Of those reporting extremely severe levels of anxiety symptoms, 66 per cent drink alcohol, 54 per cent
gamble, 47 per cent take recreational drugs and 45 per cent smoke cigarettes to manage stress.
The top five causes of stress in Australia over the five years are:
• personal finances - 49 per cent;
• family issues - 45 per cent;
• personal health - 44 per cent;
• trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle - 40 per cent; and
• issues with the health of others close to us - 38 per cent.
The five most popular ways of managing stress in Australia over the five years are:
• watching television/movies - 85 per cent;
• focusing on the positives - 81 per cent;
• spending time with friends and/or family - 81 per cent;
• listening to music - 80 per cent; and
• reading - 75 per cent.
Younger people (18-25) are significantly more likely than the older age groups to cite ‘environmental issues’ as
a cause of stress.
1.2. Key findings on FoMO (Fear of Missing Out)
Of the Australians who responded to the FoMO Questionnaire, adults were spending 2.1 hours per day and
teens 2.7 hours per day connected to social media. This provides a direct comparison between adults and
Social media is affecting how Australians behave, with 56 per cent of teens reporting they are heavy social
When we look at the adult population - almost one in four (23%) report being heavy social media users, with six
per cent of those being constantly connected.
Social media is both a cause of stress and a means of managing stress.
• More than one in 10 Australians (12%) report ‘issues with keeping up with social media networks’ as a
source of stress (2015)
• More people are reporting using social media to manage stress, with almost one in two Australians now
reporting visiting social media sites to manage stress (37% in 2011 vs 51% in 2015)
Social media dominates the life of many teens.
• Over half of Australian teens (53%) connect to social media 15 minutes before bed every night.
• Almost two in five connect (37%) in the presence of others and within 15 minutes of waking up.
• Almost one in four teens (24%) reported using social media when they were eating breakfast and lunch
seven days a week.
The impact of social media use on Australians’ wellbeing is evident in a range of ways: more than one in two
teens (57%) find it difficult to sleep or relax after spending time on social networking sites, and 60 per cent feel
brain ‘burnout’ from constant connectivity of social media.
Both Australian adults and teens experience Fear of Missing Out (FoMO): one in two teens and one in four
more likely to experience aspects of FoMO such as:
• It is important that I understand my friends’ in-jokes (78%);
• Fearing their friends are having more rewarding experiences than them (54%);
• Worrying when they find out their friends are having fun without them (60%); and
• Being bothered when they miss out on planned get-togethers (63%).
At the same time, not only do fewer adults report being constantly connected to social media (6%), they are also
less affected by FoMO than teens. For instance, of those adults connected to social media more frequently (five
or more times a day, i.e. heavy users):
• It is important that I understand my friends in-jokes (32%;
• Fearing their friends are having more rewarding experiences than them (26%);
• Worrying when they find out their friends are having fun without them (17%); and
• Being bothered when they miss out on planned get-togethers (31%).
When looking at the relationship between heavy social media use and FoMO, teens are significantly more likely
to experience all aspects of FoMO than adults. This suggests that social media has a greater impact on teens
and plays a role in their identity formation and their search for a sense of self.
3.1. Survey participants/timeframe
The Australian Psychological Society (APS), in conjunction with an online research company, conducted the
Stress and Wellbeing in Australia Survey with a representative sample of Australians. The national sample
(n=1521) comprised approximately equal numbers of men and women and was representative of the Australian
adult population (18 and above) for age, gender, geographical location and work status (matched on Australian
Bureau of Statistics [ABS]) as shown in Appendix A: Sample Statistics).
In addition to conducting the main survey, just under half the sample (n=740) completed an additional survey
relating specifically to social media usage and FoMO.
Further, a group of Australian teenagers aged 13 to 17 years (n=210) were recruited through parent panellists
of the online research company to allow us to understand Australian teens’ experience of social media and how
they compared with those of the adult population. The teen sample comprised equal numbers of boys (n=103)
and girls (n=103), with four (n=4) individuals not nominating a gender.
In total, 1,731 people completed the online survey, which was conducted over a two-and-a-half week period
from 14 August to 31 August 2015.
3.2. The survey
This year’s Stress and Wellbeing in Australia Survey included core questions present in the previous APS
surveys to enable year-on-year comparisons to be conducted. The questions incorporated standardised
measures of stress, wellbeing, anxiety and depression (please see Appendix B for details). A series of additional
questions from a separate survey examined Australians’ experience of FoMO, social media engagement and
This is the fifth year the Australian Psychological Society (APS) has conducted its ‘state-of-the-nation’ survey
on a representative sample of adult Australians to examine the levels of stress and wellbeing experienced in
the community. The assessment of stress and wellbeing levels generates key insights for understanding and
enhancing the psychological and physical health of Australians.
The survey findings are released during Psychology Week as a part of the APS’s commitment to promoting
community mental health awareness and psychological wellbeing. In the previous four years, the survey
included additional questions on a specific topic or aspect of stress and wellbeing to contribute to a special
The 2015 survey had three main aims:
• To assess the stress and wellbeing of the Australian population five years on from the initial survey to allow
• To gain insights into Australian adults’ experiences of social media and FoMO; and
• To gain insight into the impact of social media usage and FoMO on Australian teens.
3.3. Focus and rationale in 2015
the social, psychological and behavioural impact of the use of social media on their health and wellbeing.
Social media in the context of this report is defined as the use of the internet and mobile technologies to turn
communication into social interactive dialogue. It excludes activities like work texting and email.
Social media allow individuals access to increasingly abundant opportunities for interaction through real-time
it contributes to the phenomenon of Fear of Missing Out (FoMO) which is defined as a pervasive apprehension
that others might be having rewarding experiences that you are not part of, and is characterised by the desire to
stay continually connected with what others are doing (Przybylski, Murayama, DeHaan, & Gladwell, 2013).
To align the content of our surveys on the topic of social media engagement and the concept of FoMO, we have
this year’s survey:
• The Social Media Engagement Questionnaire (SMEQ)
• The FoMO Scale (FoMOs)
Overall, the sample sizes responding to each of the questionnaires were: