Self-esteem plays a crucial role in managing Death Anxiety and Fear of Missing Out
In a two-part study, researchers have uncovered a previously unexplored link between Fear of Missing Out and Death Anxiety — revealing a connection between the persistent worry of missing out and heightened concerns about mortality.
The study is led by Dr Peter Chew, Senior Lecturer of Psychology at James Cook University (JCU) in Singapore, and Mr Kuhanesan N. C. Naidu, a former Psychology honours student at JCU in Singapore, and currently holding dual roles as a Psychiatric Care Manager at the National University Hospital, and a Public Health/Psychiatry researcher at the National University of Singapore. The study explores the understudied relationship between Death Anxiety (DA) and Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), and it aims to bridge the gap in understanding how these two seemingly distinct psychological states may be connected and the potential implications for mental health.
Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is defined in the study as the persistent worry that others may be enjoying experiences while one is absent. It explores the processes involved in FOMO, including perceptions of exclusion, unmet attachment relatedness, and obsessive behaviours to counter rejection. On the other hand, Death Anxiety is a complex psychological phenomenon that involves heightened concerns about mortality, encompassing the fear of non-existence, loss of personal identity, and the perceived limited time for a fulfilling life.
The study employs Terror Management Theory (TMT), a well-known social psychological framework, as the foundational lens to explore the influences of death-related fears on everyday behaviours. It posits that awareness of mortality triggers self-preservation instincts, leading to extreme anxiety.
Considering DA and FOMO conceptually related, the study introduces three explanations: impermanence and uncertainty, existential concerns, and self-esteem. It then presents hypotheses for a strong positive correlation between DA and FOMO, then exploring the moderating role of self-esteem on the relationship between Mortality Salience (MS) effects and FOMO.
The first part of the study involves a correlational approach, while the second employs an experimental design. The first study uncovers a clear link between FOMO and the anxiety surrounding death, revealing a stronger connection than previously thought. The second study, conducted through experiments, demonstrates that individuals with higher self-esteem worry less about missing out when reminded of death. This suggests that concerns about missing out are closely tied to deeper anxieties about life and death.
Overall, this study found that strong self-esteem can serve as a protective factor against the negative effects of both DA and FOMO. Individuals with high self-esteem exhibit better emotional resilience and coping strategies, enabling them to handle worries related to mortality. Conversely, those with lower self-esteem may be more susceptible to these concerns, leading to increased fear of missing out and a greater fear of being left behind.
“Our study has shed light on the unexplored connection between Fear of Missing Out and Death Anxiety, and challenges existing perceptions,” shared Dr Chew. “I hope our findings contribute to the broader understanding of these two phenomena, and that it serves as a starting point for future research into the complex interconnection between DA, FOMO, and other psychopathological conditions."
The implications of this research extend to the field of clinical psychology, urging therapists to incorporate existential perspectives into psychotherapy. The researchers’ recommendations include adapting FOMO assessment scales to diverse age groups, recognising the prevalence of FOMO among adolescents and young adults.
Naidu, K.N.C., Chew, P.K.H. Effects of death anxiety on fear of missing out. Curr Psychol (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-023-05382-7
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Dr Peter Chew [email protected]
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