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BizReport : Trends & Ideas archives : October 12, 2015

Third of Brits struggling to cope with data overload

'Debilitating stress' is affecting millions of Brits thanks to data overload, according to recent research from digital mapping and analytics experts Esri UK, and marketers may want to consider visual content which is easier for the brain to absorb.

by Helen Leggatt

No wonder yoga and meditation are trending in the UK. According to Esri UK's survey of 1,000 adults in the UK a third of them (35%) are finding it hard to cope with the sheer amount of digital distractions every day, such as social media, emails, digital news and digital documents.

For most (61%), they feel that they need to stay constantly connected to keep track of, and respond to, information from far too many sources and it's a daily concern. Thirty-four percent say they struggle to absorb all the content they are exposed to. Avoidance is a tactic used by 44%, and 14% go as far as to hide their devices to avoid the bombardment and to prevent constantly checking.

The data overload is causing stress with just under half (45%) citing problems with sleep or relationships with family or work colleagues. Over a third say it affects them by making them anxious, unable to relax and fidgety.

"Paying attention to a vast amount of data requires multitasking, rapidly switching attention from one source to another, which has been found to increase levels of the stress hormone, cortisol," says Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos, consumer and business psychologist at University College London. "Receiving novel information activates the brain's reward pathway, which leads to a continuous cycle in which we are compelled to seek out more and more information, eventually resulting in a state of restlessness. This can explain the finding that a third of respondents felt anxious, fidgety and unable to relax as a result of data overload."

According to Tsivrikos, there is a way to minimise stress, and that's to provide information in a visual format. The brain is better able to digest images than large amounts of text, perhaps why infographics have become so popular.

"Marketers and businesses need to understand the pressure this is putting on individuals and seek new ways to present information, marketing communications and news," says Lorna Nightingale, head of marketing at Esri UK. "Visualising data is proven to be easier to digest, understand and recall. The phrase 'a picture can tell a thousand words' has never been more true."

Image via Shutterstock

Tags: digital trends, infographics, marketing, U.K., visual content

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