According to a recent study done by Pharma Dynamics, two-thirds of South African adults and teens suffer from the fear of missing out (Fomo) so much so that they’re unable to concentrate on what they’re doing. The survey was done on 3 000 respondents aged 15-50 years and 62% of them admitted to being afraid of missing out on interesting news and events, causing them to lose focus on what they’re doing at their workplace. Fomo symptoms include constantly texting and compulsively checking social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.
Pharma Dynamics spokesperson Mariska Fouche says that Fomo increases stress levels. “People who suffer from it constantly push themselves to the limit in order not to miss out on social events. They go to work even when they’re sick and are unable to turn down invitations, which puts a lot of strain on their immune systems. This, in turn, heightens their risk of contracting more serious illnesses.”
The firm’s study was aimed at exploring the reasons for the rise in demand for immune system-boosting supplements.
We asked Talita da Costa, a clinical psychologist with a special interest in neuropsychology, about the effects of Fomo on our society:
What are the dangers of using immune system-boosters?
It appears that people are taking them because in this busy and competitive world, they can’t “afford” to get ill and miss work, as this would cause them to fall behind. On a social level, the fear of not being at the “right” place at the “right” time results in an increase in stress levels. This inevitably affects the body and can lead to serious illnesses, as well as chronic anxiety. It becomes a vicious cycle because even when they’re ill, people take immune system-boosters rather than getting good bed rest.
What does this say about our society?
It reflects a “rat race” society. Technology’s constantly on the rise, creating new
and faster ways to do things. This puts a lot of pressure on us. We aren’t able to function at the same pace as technology’s developing. People are constantly involved not only in work, but also with families, friends and communities.
How does anxiety affect a person's ability to function at work?
Anxiety is a very debilitating condition and is often difficult to understand. This is because it’s a psychological/emotional problem, but presents physically and cognitively with shortness of breath, heart palpitations, sweaty hands, dizziness, difficulty processing information, loss of memory and decreased levels
of attention. Such symptoms make it almost inevitable that one will have difficulty performing at work.
What is it that people are so afraid of “missing out” on?
* Better job opportunities.
* Always wanting to fit in and be visible – for example, by going to the party everyone’s talking about or having the latest technological gadget. This increases their levels of self-confidence and self-esteem.
* Feeling connected to others and current social events.
What other illness can one get from continually pushing oneself to attend events?
We almost always see depression, which is a co-morbid illness resulting from the anxiety that comes with stress. People are so busy trying to “fit in”, be part of the “in” crowd and keep up with trends that they become emotionally, mentally and physically burnt out.