How australians are coping with life



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Stress & wellbeing

HOW AUSTRALIANS ARE COPING WITH LIFE

The findings of the 

Australian Psychological 

Society Stress and 

wellbeing in Australia 

survey 2015

FoMO survey:

The impact of connectivity to social media 

on teens and adults in Australian 

Page 30

PLUS


Stress & wellbeing

CONTENTS


Australian Psychological Society Stress and wellbeing in Australia survey 2015

2

List 



of 

tables 


        

3

List of figures 



 

 

 



 

 

 



 

  3


1.  Summary of findings 

 

 



 

 

 



 

  4


    1.1.  Key findings for stress and wellbeing 

 

 



 

 

  6



    1.2.  Key findings on Fear of Missing Out (FoMO) 

 

 



 

  6


2. 

Introduction 

        

7

3. 



Methodology 

        


7

    3.1.  Survey participants/timeframe   

 

 

 



   

  7


    3.2.  The survey 

 

 



 

 

 



 

  7


    3.3.  Focus and rationale in 2015   

 

 



 

   


  8

 

 



3.4. 

Data 


analysis 

      10


    3.5.  Demographic variables 

 

 



 

 

 



10

    3.6.  Life stage segment variables   

 

 

 



   

11

    3.7.  Cross-year data 



 

   


 

 

 



 

11

    3.8.  Between-group comparisons    



 

 

 



 

12

 



 

3.9. 


Prevalence 

percentage 

     12

    3.10.  Data presentation, significance and subsample sizes  



 

 

12



    3.11.  The report 

 

 



 

 

 



 

12

4.  Five years of stress and wellbeing 



 

 

 



 

 

13



    4.1.  Across five years in Australia   

 

 



 

 

13



    4.2.  Prevalence of levels of distress, depressions symptoms and anxiety symptoms   

14

    4.3.  Causes of stress 



 

 

 



 

 

 



15

    4.4.  Stress management  

 

 

 



 

 

17



     

4.4.1.  How do we manage stress? 

 

 

 



 

17

     



4.4.2.  How effective are our stress management activities/behaviours?   

17

     



4.4.3.  Relationship between ways of managing stress and experience of 

 

        distress, anxiety and depressions symptoms   



 

 

20



     

4.4.4.  How do we seek help for stress?   

 

 

 



21

     


4.4.5.  How do we think stress affects us? 

 

 



 

22

 



 

4.5. 


Wellbeing 

       22

     

4.5.1.  Across five years in Australia 



 

 

 



 

22

     



4.5.2.  By age 

 

 



 

 

 



 

23

     



4.5.3.  By living arrangements   

 

 



 

 

24



     

4.5.4.  By level of education   

 

 

 



 

24

     



4.5.5.  By primary employment  

 

 



 

 

25



     

4.5.6.  By annual income 

 

 

 



 

 

25



     

4.5.7.  Workplace wellbeing   

 

 

 



 

26

5.  Stress and wellness in 2015 



 

 

 



 

 

27



    5.1.  Causes of stress in 2015 

 

 



 

 

 



27

    5.2.  Wellness in 2015   

 

 

 



 

 

28



6. 

Special 


topic: 

FoMO 


      30

  

6.1.  Key findings 



 

 

 



 

 

 



30

    6.2.  Teen social media use 

 

 

 



 

 

30



    6.3.  Teen social media experience   

 

 



 

 

33



    6.4.  Teen FoMO 

 

 



 

 

 



 

34

    6.5.  Adult social media usage 



 

 

 



 

 

36



    6.6.  Adult social media experience   

 

 



 

 

38



    6.7.  Adult FoMO 

 

 



 

 

 



 

38

References 



 

 

 



 

 

 



 

41

Acknowledgements   



 

 

 



 

 

 



41

Appendix A: Sample statistics   

 

 

 



 

 

42



Appendix B: Measuring stress, distress, depression and anxiety  

 

 



43

3

TABLES


FIGURES

Table 1:      Sample Sizes for Main Survey and Standalone FoMO Survey   

 

 

 



  8

Table 2:      Sample Proportions for Teen Connection to Social Media 

 

 

 



 

  9


Table 3:      Sample Proportions for Adult Connection to Social Media 

 

 



 

 

  9



Table 4:      Sample Sizes for Teen Gender  

 

 



 

 

 



 

10

Table 5:      Sample Sizes for Teen Age Group 



 

 

 



 

 

 



10

Table 6:      Sample Sizes for Adult Gender  

 

 

 



 

 

 



10

Table 7:      Sample Sizes for Adult Age Group 

 

 

 



 

 

 



11

Table 8:      Life Stage Segments and Criteria for 2015 

 

 

 



 

 

11



Table 9:      Sample Sizes by Survey Year   

 

 



 

 

 



 

11

Table 10:     Workplace Wellbeing 



 

 

 



 

 

 



 

26

Table 11:     Wellness Prevalence by Gender, 2015   



 

 

 



 

 

29



Table 12:     Wellness Prevalence by Age Group, 2015  

 

 



 

 

 



29

Table 13:     Social Media Average Usage by Teens During Periods of the Day, 2015   

 

 

32



Table 14:     Social Media Average Usage by Adults During Periods of the Day, 2015   

 

 



37

Table 15:     Prevalence of FoMO by Age Group, 2015  

 

 

 



 

 

39



Table 16:     Gender of Survey Participants in 2015   

 

 



 

 

 



42

Table 17:     Location of Survey Participants in 2015   

 

 

 



 

 

42



Table 18:     Age Group of Survey Participants in 2015 

 

 



 

 

 



42

Figure 1:   Aggregate Measures of Stress, Distress, Depression and Anxiety, 2011-2015 

 

 

13



Figure 2:   Average Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K-10) Category Prevalence, 2011-2015 

 

14



Figure 3:   Average DASS-21 Depression Scale Category Prevalence, 2011-2015 

 

 



 

14

Figure 4:   Average DASS-21 Anxiety Scale Category Prevalence, 2011-2015 



 

 

 



15

Figure 5:   Prevalence of Stressors, 2011-2015 

 

 

 



 

 

 



16

Figure 6:   Ways of Managing Stress %, 2011-2015   

 

 

 



 

 

18



Figure 7:   Prevalence % vs Effectiveness % of Stress Management, 2011-2015 

 

 



 

19

Figure 8:   Stress Reliever % by K10 Distress Category 



 

 

 



 

 

20



Figure 9:   Stress Reliever % by DASS-21 Depression Category   

 

 



 

 

20



Figure 10:   Stress Reliever % by DASS-21 Anxiety Category 

 

 



 

 

 



21

Figure 11:   Prevalence % of Help Sought to Manage Stress, 2011-2015   

 

 

 



21

Figure 12:   Perceived % Impact of Stress on Physical Health 

 

 

 



 

 

22



Figure 13:   Perceived % Impact of Stress on Mental Health 

 

 



 

 

 



22

Figure 14:   Mean Wellbeing Score, 2011-2015 

 

 

 



 

 

 



23

Figure 15:   Wellbeing Score by Age Group, 2011-2015 

 

 

 



 

 

23



Figure 16:   Average Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Score by Level of Education, 2011-2015 

 

24



Figure 17:   Average Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Score by Primary Employment, 2011-2015 

 

25



Figure 18:   Average Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Score by Income, 2011-2015 

 

 



25

Figure 19:   Prevalence of Stressors, 2015  

 

 

 



 

 

 



27

Figure 20:   FoMO for Heavy Social Media Users, 2015 

 

 

 



 

 

31



Figure 21:   Time Spent Connected to Social Media by Teens Age-Band and Gender, 2015 

 

 



32

Figure 22:   Attitudes Toward Social Media Use in Teens, 2015   

 

 

 



 

33

Figure 23:   Prevalence of ‘FoMO’ by Frequency of Social Media Usage in Teens, 2015 heavy vs light 



 

35

Figure 24:   Time Spent Connected to Social Media by Adults and Gender, 2015 



 

 

 



36

Figure 25:   Time Spent Connected to Social Media by Adults Age Group, 2015 

 

 

 



37

Figure 26:   Social Media Experience in Adults, 2015   

 

 

 



 

 

38



Figure 27:   Prevalence of FoMO by Frequency of Social Media Usage in Adults, 2015   

 

 



40

Australian Psychological Society Stress and wellbeing in Australia survey 2015

1.  SUMMARY OF FINDINGS

4

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) has conducted its fifth successive 



national Stress and wellbeing in Australia survey. This year the survey also 

examined the impact of social media on Australians’ wellbeing and behaviour 

as well as exploring their experience of the Fear of Missing Out (FoMO)

1

.



1.1.  Key findings for stress and wellbeing

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 

anxiety symptoms.

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 

important measure. 

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:

•  Age

: Younger people (18-25) have consistently reported lower levels of wellbeing than older Australians;



•  Employment status

: 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.);

•  Children

: Those with children have higher levels of wellbeing than those without children; and

•  Education/Income

: 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)



Australian Psychological Society Stress and wellbeing in Australia survey 2015

Stress & wellbeing



Australian Psychological Society Stress and wellbeing in Australia survey 2015

5

26 per cent of Australians report having 



moderate to extremely severe depression 

symptoms

•  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.


6

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 

teens.

Social media is affecting how Australians behave, with 56 per cent of teens reporting they are heavy social 



media users (connecting 5+ times per day), with 25 per cent being constantly connected.

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 

adults.


Teens connected to social media more frequently (five or more times a day, i.e. heavy users) are significantly 

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.



Australian Psychological Society Stress and wellbeing in Australia survey 2015

Stress & wellbeing



7

3.  METHODOLOGY

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 

behaviour. 

2.  INTRODUCTION

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 

feature.

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 

year-on-year comparisons;

•  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.



Australian Psychological Society Stress and wellbeing in Australia survey 2015

8

 

3.3.  Focus and rationale in 2015



The 2015 survey included an in-depth exploration of Australians’ experiences of social media usage and 

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 



information about the activities, events, and conversations happening across diverse social networks. However, 

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 



included the following validated and standardised instruments developed by Przybylski and colleagues (2013) in 

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:



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