Press release 62/23 - 09.08.2023

When digital stress can also be positive

After four years of research, the Bavarian research alliance ForDigitHealth has released its findings on digital stress.

The universities of Augsburg, Bamberg, Erlangen-Nürnberg, Munich (LMU), and Würzburg have spent four years researching the healthy use of digital technologies and media. ForDigitHealth has presented its findings in academic publications as well as in an online guide accessible to the public.


© University of Augsburg

Digital technologies and media are deeply integrated into our everyday lives. They keep us connected, are a prerequisite for many work processes, enable social connections, inspiration, entertainment, learning, and much more. Simultaneously, when not well managed, digital stress can lead to negative health consequences.

The Bavarian State Minister for Science and the Arts, Markus Blume, emphasised that as “interdisciplinary, highly topical, and with added value for everyone, the approach of the research alliance ForDigitHealth was and is exemplary. Digital technologies and media determine our everyday lives, and the effects must be well researched, which is why the research alliance has been funded with around €3.4 million. The findings provide us with important insights into how we as individuals and as a society can deal with the phenomenon of digital stress. I am especially glad that the findings have been made accessible through an online guide.”  

Research into different facets of digital health

The Bavarian research alliance ForDigitHealth has been researching the healthy use of digital technology and media for four years and has discovered that it depends on one’s attitude to stress. If an individual sees it as a challenge instead of a burden, then it can be positive, leading to better performance and well-being. But the conditions have to be right in the sense that digital media literacy, support from colleagues, or an IT help desk, have to be present, which help not only to solve the problem but also empower the individual to solve the problem. In such a situation, the body is put on alert and is able to cope with the situation. However, in the long-term, stress like this can be linked to illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease and depression. This is due to long-lasting inflammation processes, which are a reaction to stress when it is experienced over a long period of time, according to researchers Dr Manfred Schoch and Prof. Dr Nicolas Rohleder (co-spokesperson at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg). Repeated stress situations throughout the working day can lead to long-term chronic stress that makes people ill. In particular, a high degree of digital work can be a driver of chronic digital stress in the workplace.  

ForDigitHealth also researched how digital technologies can be designed using user-centred design processes in order to reduce digital stress. Computer scientists have also been exploring new horizons by developing new technologies, such as those that can be used for working while walking, for example, with movement good for reducing stress. Researchers have also researched how apps can be used to better manage digital stress, with the first prototypes having been developed.

Prof. Dr Elisabeth André (University of Augsburg), co-spokesperson for the research alliance, emphasized: “We have taken seriously the requirement of our funders to work in an interdisciplinary way, with methods, theories, and perspectives from five different disciplines integrated in order to produce new findings. Alongside the requirement for interdisciplinarity, we aimed to bring the topic of digital stress into public discourse.”  

Online guide gives tips

The Bavarian research alliance has prepared possible approaches for dealing with digital stress. In their guide, which is available for the public on their website, information and tips about the causes and consequences and possible modes of action for mitigating digital stress are outlined. The underlying publications of the research can also be easily looked up in the guide. The alliance is composed of renowned experts in the field from the disciplines of medicine, psychology, computer science, business informatics, and communication studies. The topic of digital stress was researched in the context of five overarching cross-cutting topics and a total of eleven sub-projects.

In ForDigitHealth, researchers from five Bavarian universities worked together (University of Augsburg, University of Bamberg, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München and Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg). The alliance was funded by the Bavarian State Ministry of Science and the Arts with around €3.4 million over four years.



Overview of the sub-projects

Prof. Dr Henner Gimpel from business informatics at the University of Augsburg and the University of Hohenheim was involved two sub-projects. The first concerned overcoming digital stress in the workplace and the question of whether alongside well-known negative consequences, stress could also have positive consequences. The second looked at how an app could be used to how help deal with digital stress, and how this could be supported.

Prof. Dr Jeffrey Wimmer from communication studies at the University of Augsburg asked the question of how people perceive digital stress in their free time, how they deal with it, and what role social environment plays.

Prof. Dr Susanne Kinnebrock from communication studies at the University of Augsburg researched the question of how digital stress is portrayed in the media (including in online forums) and which environments, causes, and symptoms are thematised.

Prof. Dr Nicolas Rohleder, a health psychologist at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, researched the connection between psychological and biological stress reactions.

Prof. Dr Dennis Nowak and Prof. Dr Matthias Weigl, occupational health physicians at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, and medical psychologists at the University Hospital Bonn, researched how short- and mid-term stress reactions caused by digital technologies and media in the workplace can have long-term effects.

Prof. Dr Gerhild Nieding and Dr Wienke Wannagat, developmental psychologists at the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, researched digital stress among youth as well as younger and older adults and the question of what digital media literacy looks like and how it can be implemented.

Prof. Dr Tim Weitzel and Prof. Dr Christian Maier from business informatics at the University of Bamberg and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München asked whether digital stress is “infectious” and whether it can spread from one person to another, as for example in teams within a workplace.

Prof. Dr Elisabeth André, a computer scientist at the University of Augsburg, researched the question of whether Artificial Intelligence can recognise signs of digital stress and how users can be involved in the learning and development process of Artificial Intelligence.

Prof. Dr Albrecht Schmidt, a computer scientist at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, researched the question of how the design of human-centred digital technologies can lead to health promoting effects.

Prof. Dr Matthias Berking, a clinical psychologist, and Prof. Dr Björn Eskofier, a computer scientist (both at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg), as well as Prof. Dr-Ing. habil. Björn Schuller, a computer scientist at the University of Augsburg, researched how apps can be optimised to strengthen mental health.

Scientific Contact

Sabine Toussaint
Geschäftsführerin Forschungsverbund ForDigithHealth
University of Augsburg
Chair for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence

Media Contact

Michael Hallermayer
Deputy Media Officer
Communications and Media Relations