Daily perceived stress predicts less next day social interaction: Evidence from a naturalistic mobile sensing study

Emotion. 2021 Dec;21(8):1760-1770. doi: 10.1037/emo0000994. Epub 2021 Oct 4.


Although mammals have a strong motivation to engage in social interaction, stress can significantly interfere with this desire. Indeed, research in nonhuman animals has shown that stress reduces social interaction, a phenomenon referred to as "stress-induced social avoidance." While stress and social disconnection are also intertwined in humans, to date, evidence that stress predicts reductions in social interaction is mixed, in part, because existing paradigms fail to capture social interaction naturalistically. To help overcome this barrier, we combined experience sampling and passive mobile sensing methods with time-lagged analyses (i.e., vector autoregressive modeling) to investigate the temporal impact of stress on real-world indices of social interaction. We found that, across a 2-month period, greater perceived stress on a given day predicted significantly decreased social interaction-measured by the amount of face to face conversation-the following day. Critically, the reverse pattern was not observed (i.e., social interaction did not temporally predict stress), and the effect of stress on social interaction was present while accounting for other related variables such as sleep, movement, and time spent at home. These findings are consistent with animal research on stress-induced social avoidance and lay the groundwork for creating naturalistic, mobile-sensing based human models to further elucidate the cycle between stress and real-world social interaction. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Humans
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Interaction*
  • Stress, Psychological