It’s official: slow Internet stresses people out

A neuroscience study measuring user reactions to network performance has shown that slow Internet causes heart rate and stress levels to increase.

According to Ericsson’s “The Stress of Streaming Delays” report, a single delay, on average, resulted in a 38% increase in heart rate.

“As for stress, participants already exhibited an increase from pre-task baseline levels, which was attributed to the pressure of having to complete tasks within a set time limit,” the report said.

“With the introduction of delays, the stress levels then increased further.”

How much stress is caused by slow Internet

Participants’ responses to initial load time and pauses due to buffering while watching videos were assessed by measuring cognitive load – an indicator of stress.

With no delays, stress levels during the video tasks averaged 13% above the pre-task baseline.

A delay of 2 seconds when loading videos resulted in average stress levels going from 13% to 16% above the baseline.

Once a video started to stream, a pause due to buffering caused stress levels to further increase by 15 percentage points.

With high time-to-content delays of 6 seconds, half of the participants exhibited a 19% increase relative to baseline levels.

The other half exhibited signs of resignation – their eye movements indicated distraction and stress levels dropped.

Stress watching a video
Average change in stress when facing streaming video delays
Cognitive load associated with stressful situations
Cognitive load associated with stressful situations

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It’s official: slow Internet stresses people out