You may think you’re hiding your stress at work, but according to a new study, the way you use a computer mouse says it all.
Researchers from ETH Zurich in Germany found that stressed people make sudden and exaggerated moves when using the mouse. According to the scientists, this is because high levels of stress negatively affect our motor skills and the brain’s ability to process information, resulting in frantic mouse movements.
The study also found that stressed people hit the keyboard, paused too much and made more typos. Relaxed individuals, on the other hand, paused less but longer, leading to fewer errors.
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The study’s lead author Mara Nägelin, a mathematician at ETH Zurich, said in a statement: “Stressed people move the mouse arrow more often and harder. “Stressed people also travel longer distances on the screen when using the mouse.
“In contrast, relaxed people take shorter, more direct routes to reach their goals and spend more time doing so.
Keyboard and mouse use is a better sign than heart rate
For this research, ZURICH worked with 90 participants who performed office tasks while wearing a heart monitoring device.
Some participants worked without interruption, while others took part in business calls and were repeatedly interrupted by chat messages. The team recorded each person’s mouse and keyboard behavior.
“We were very surprised that keyboard and mouse behavior was a better predictor of how stressed the subjects felt than heart rate,” said Nägelin.
While both men and women experience stress at work, a 2018 study found that increased stress levels are more likely to kill men with heart problems.
Work stress is deadly for men
Researchers from University College London have found that men with heart problems are six times more likely to die prematurely if they work in a stressful job (even if they keep fit and eat a healthy diet).
Scientists suggest that one explanation for this is that men’s arteries are more prone to blockages than women, who are generally much less likely to have heart problems before menopause.
Researcher Professor Mika Kivimäki from University College London said: “Professional life, a common source of stress in adulthood, triggers natural stress responses that were programmed into our bodies generations ago. These can result in physical responses to situations such as work stress.
“Our findings provide evidence of a link between work stress and the risk of premature death in men with cardio-metabolic diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
“Moreover, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels alone is unlikely to eliminate excess risk.