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The Centre for Studies on Human Stress (CSHS) is dedicated to improving the physical and mental health of Canadians by empowering individuals with scientifically grounded information on the effects of stress on the brain and body.
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E-mails have become an indispensable method of communication, whether it be for professional, academic or personal purposes. A recent study published by University of British Columbia researchers suggests that limiting the frequency of e-mail consultation reduces daily stress.

During a two-week period, 124 adults from various work and academic environments were submitted to two experimental conditions. During the first week, they had to limit the consultation of their e-mails to a maximum of three times a day (“limited consultation” condition). The following week, the same participants had no restrictions regarding e-mail consultation (“unlimited consultation” condition). Questionnaires were administered to participants on a daily basis to measure various aspects related to stress and psychological well-being.

The results suggest that daily stress was significantly lower when the participants’ e-mail consultation was limited as compared to when it was unlimited. They also felt more productive, more in control of their environment and had higher levels of  psychological well-being when e-mail consultation was limited.

Moreover, the experimental condition only affected the number of times participants consulted their e-mails, and had no effect on the amount of e-mails received, read or answered during the day. Indeed, regardless of the experimental condition, participants received equivalent amounts of e-mails and managed to respond to them just as well.

It is important to note that the participants in this study already had some flexibility regarding e-mail consultation. Some occupations do not allow such flexibility and require constant communication via e-mail. Thus, for some people, such a limitation could have the opposite effect of creating additional stress.