Study: Checking Email in Spurts Reduces Stress

Brandon Dimmel's picture

How often do you check your email each day? A new study suggests that consulting your inbox more than three times a day could significantly increase your stress levels. The study, which comes from researchers at the University of British Columbia, involved asking 124 adults to restrict their inbox-checking to just three times a day for a one-week period. Once that week was over, study participants were allowed to check their email as much as they liked.

Less Email, Less Stress, Study Suggests

Throughout the process participants were asked to fill out daily 10-minute questionnaires about their stress levels. In most cases people reported feeling less stressed during the time when they checked their email inboxes only three times a day.

Previous studies have shown that, on average, people check their email about 15 times a day. The latest findings suggest this behavior should be cut back significantly. (Source:

The University of British Columbia researchers suggest that the higher stress levels have a lot to do with realignment of attention. When checking email, oftentimes people will also adjust their task priorities -- a process that can be very taxing on the mind. Maintaining focus on one task for a longer period of time can help reduce the stress associated with this realignment.

Of course, it might be just as stressful to restrict access to email. Studies have shown that about 92 per cent of American adults use email to communicate with other people. In a typical day in the United States, an incredible 183 billion emails are sent and received.

Set Aside Times for Email, Expert Says

Kostadin Kushlev, a Department of Psychology Ph.D. candidate at the University of British Columbia and one of the study's researchers, acknowledged that "most participants in our study found it quite difficult to check their email only a few times a day."

And that's the great irony: "People find it difficult to resist the temptation of checking email, and yet resisting this temptation reduces their stress," Kushlev said. (Source:

Kushlev insists setting aside certain times of the day for checking emails, rather than madly clicking through inboxes every time a new message arrives. "I now check my email in chunks several times a day, rather than constantly responding to messages as they come in," Kushlev said of his own email habits. "And I feel better and less stressed."

What's Your Opinion?

How many times do you check your email each day? Would it be possible for you to limit your email checks to just three times per day? Do you find yourself feeling less stressed out on days when you rarely check your email?

Rate this article: 
Average: 5 (5 votes)


Dennis Faas's picture

Emails arrive in my inbox throughout the day - usually in waves. Oftentimes I'll respond to a bunch of emails at once, only to have more come gushing in a few minutes later. This happens every day without fail. If that burning sensation in my stomach is a suggestion of email stress, then I can definitely relate to this study. That, coupled with live chat and other tasks throughout the day have me literally pinned to the screen.

blueboxer2's picture

I actually have six regular email accounts. But I set one time to run through all six and then that's it for the day. Makes it sort of six tasks but one chore. And it's rare that I miss anything important. In fact, I don't have the mail arrival notification operative on any of the accounts. And that does seem to reduce stress.

guitardogg's picture

Staying in constant communication with our customer base is essential. That means my email is always open on one of my screens. If something important comes in, I read it ASAP. I guess it depends on what you use email for. In my case, only checking it 3 times a day would be a disaster! Not sure I buy into this one.