Study Finds Too Much Multi-Tasking Can Harm Mental Well-Being

Modern life is as commonly cited as being stressful as it is praised for affording new technologies and conveniences. Part of the difficulties of striking a balance between the stress and the ease of modern life is handling the many tasks, errands, and duties that present themselves on a daily basis, and the most common answer to this challenge in recent years seems to be multi-tasking. Managing to cook a gourmet meal while chatting on the phone, monitoring stocks on a TV broadcast and supervising a child may eventually result in a bit of pride at having accomplished basic chores all in one go, but a new study performed at MIT has shown that this habit may actually contribute to unhappiness as well as cognitive decline.

The study’s research team noted that a number of people are confident about their abilities to efficiently multi-task, yet in the lab, monitoring has shown that people tend to focus on one or two of the tasks at hand, without being able to allot much focus to any excess. Additionally, research performed on multi-tasking has suggested that information is recorded differently by the brain in the presence of excessive stimuli, perhaps contributing to more shallow learning and short-term memories.

With the amount of stress that multi-tasking often produces (merely thinking about the prospect can have a negative impact on mental functioning) would seem to warrant a useful reward, this research calls into question the true benefits of the practice. While a few moments may be saved in terms of time, the study suggests that taking a more moderately paced approach to life may help keep that balance between stress and easy convenience tipped on the more positive side.

© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Jim R.

    Jim R.

    August 21st, 2009 at 12:35 PM

    It makes sense with all the cases of depression in our society that it goes hand in hand with the hectic busy lives we live, sometimes working two jobs, raising kids, taking care of chores.

  • William


    August 25th, 2009 at 4:56 AM

    Asking me to work on more than two projects at a time is like asking me to stick a fork in my eye. There is just about nothing in the world that can cause me more stress and that is just now how I choose to go about my life. Let me do one project at a time and give that my all and make that a success- then I am able to move on to the next.

  • Otherapproach


    August 12th, 2010 at 6:30 PM

    Perhaps people are going about it in the wrong way. I find that when I multitask I feel less stress. Here’s my approach.

    I just keep all my goals, what I intend to accomplish in my mind and then with those goals on my mind I just let myself act on autopilot. I let my subconscious take care of everything. I don’t consciously think about any of the details except maybe here and there when the moment calls for it but never intensely and if it starts feeling stressly I stop consciously thinking about it. Only when I’m doing something critical with information I’ve never learned before do I consciously focus.

    I liken this to a voluntarily-induced state of dissociation. It takes time to be able to do this. The key is just let yourself enter this state of mind, rather than try.

  • Susie Moore

    Susie Moore

    October 13th, 2010 at 3:48 PM

    I agree I recently became so overwhelming and depress by taking on so much that it begin to affect my health. I was constantly stress out trying to get that done and this. I agree totally about what is spoken on this subject.

    susie moore

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