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Health Team

E-mail Adds Stress to Daily Life

Posted August 27, 2007 7:27 p.m. EDT

The conveniences of e-mail - speed and mobility - come along with pressure to also be quick in responding.

Researchers from Scotland found that for some people, the words "You've got mail" increasingly also mean "You've got stress."

Lab and researcher administrator Amarillyis Carreira said her inbox is the most cluttered place on her computer and that simply replying to her e-mails can ruin her day.

"I get about 200, 250 emails a day. It is very stressful," Carreira said.

More than a third of people suffer from "inbox stress," according to researchers from Glasgow University and the University of Paisley.

That stress comes from both junk e-mail that gets deleted and legitimate e-mails that require immediate attention. In fact, many people feel pressure to check e-mail when they're not at work and even feel guilty for not responding, psychologist Dr. William Samek said.

That pressure could increase, according to the trends predicted by IDC Consulting, a global Internet consulting firm.

Users will get and send 97 billion e-mails worldwide in 2007, and on average, each person will get 27 spam e-mails for every one business-related e-mail, according to IDC. This year will also mark the first time spam e-mails outnumber personal messages, the firm predicts.

All that spam could add to what Samek identifies as "deletion anxiety."

"I know someone who has had an account for 15 years and has never deleted one e-mail, has every e-mail they ever received," he said.

To relieve inbox stress and deletion anxiety, experts recommend setting certain times to check and respond to messages. Users are also encouraged to go ahead and delete old e-mails.

"It's only e-mail, and people understand if you don't respond too quickly, if you take a day or two," Samek said. "And if somebody gets really upset about that, it's probably more their problem than yours."