Information overload causing stress and ill health

It's official--well, almost: tapping too many information sources simultaneously is bad for your health, a survey has found.

When Diana Harris was 23 she had a plum job. Having just graduated from a university she landed a position with a major oil company as a market analyst. However, after two years, she was under so much stress that she had to quit. She was unable to work for the next five years.

Her illness is peculiar to the information age: it is called Information Fatigue Syndrome and according to a new report by the London- based Benchmark Research, over a third of managers say that they have suffered ill-health as a consequence of stress from information overload.

One of the main contributing factors to information overload is the Internet, according to 48% of managers surveyed. "I had to correlate information from so many different sources," says Harris. "A great deal of the information was inaccurate, so I had the added stress of sorting it out."

The report called "Dying for Information" was compiled by Dr David Lewis, a leading British psychologist who polled 1313 junior, middle and senior managers in the US, UK, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore. "Having too much information can be as dangerous as having too little," says Lewis. "It can lead to the paralysis of analysis, making it harder to find the right solutions or make the best decisions."

According to Harris, lack of proper training is a major contributing factor to the disease. "People need to be trained to manage the information," says Harris. "Really most of my information sources were inaccurate or just plain wrong," she says.

According to the survey the results of information overload on managers are procrastination, time wasting, tension, stress and loss of job satisfaction, and in many cases, illness and breakdown of personal relationships.

"Apart from proper training and sophisticated equipment, the solution is a large bin beside your desk," says Harris.

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