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Experts: Information onslaught bad for your health

graphic April 15, 1997
Web posted at: 5:43 p.m. EDT (2143 GMT)

From Correspondent Kathy Nellis

(CNN) -- Sick of the information age? You're not alone.

There's so much data out there -- on television, in books, on billboards, in magazines and newspapers and on the Internet - - that it's making some people physically ill, according to some experts.

Psychologists even have a name for the malady: Information Fatigue Syndrome.



'We're often seeing a failure of concentration. We're seeing a loss of motivation, loss of morale. We're seeing greater irritability.'

-- Psychologist David Lewis

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They say the illness isn't just mental.

"On the physical level, you might find people having digestive problems," said psychologist David Lewis. "They may, if the stress is chronic, have problems with their heart -- hypertension, high blood pressure."

Other possible consequences: sleep disorders and adverse effects on personal and sex lives.

Some say the Internet's to blame. In a survey of managers conducted by Reuters, nearly half said they thought the Internet will be a prime cause of information overload in the next two years.

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"We did the survey in five international centers ... the U.K., the U.S., Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia," said Paul Waddington of Reuters Business Information. "And we interviewed about 1,300 people and the report did show some very interesting findings -- that people genuinely suffer from information overload. There's a business cost and a human cost to it."

A third of the managers in the Reuter survey said they suffered from stress-related health problems brought on by too much information.

Forty-three percent said they had trouble making important decisions because they had too much information.

And almost two thirds said their personal relationships suffered because of information overload.

Experts say the syndrome isn't just annoying -- it's dangerous. Their advice:

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  • Learn to pace yourself.

  • Take breaks to give your brain time to absorb information.

  • Know when to skim and when to study.

In a word, says Lewis, lighten up.

"No matter how interesting your job is, it's probably not worth dying for," he says. "I do think there are people out there who are dying because they're getting too much information and they don't know how to handle it."

 
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