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Study examines link between fear of missing out and maladaptive behaviors in college students

Fear of missing out (FoMO) on meaningful and fun experiences is something most people experience at some point in their lives. Among college students, the degree to which someone experiences FoMO is associated with their risk of participating in maladaptive behaviors including academic misconduct, drug and alcohol use, and breaking the law, according to a new published study. this week in the open access journal. PLOS ONE by Paul McKee of Southern Connecticut State University, USA, and colleagues.

For many students, college is a major transition that can facilitate either psychological growth or maladaptive behaviors and psychological problems. Previous studies have found an association between FoMO and disruptive/harmful use of social media. A better understanding of how FoMO influences individual behavior is important to reduce the negative influence of FoMO.

For the new study, 472 college students completed a packet of paper-based questionnaires assessing levels of FoMO, unethical and illegal behavior while in school, and demographic variables. The researchers analyzed this data both using standard statistical approaches and applying a supervised machine learning approach.

With the first analysis approach, the team discovered associations between FoMO and nearly every behavior they examined. Higher levels of FoMO were found to be correlated with higher rates of classroom incivility (p

The authors suggest that brief FoMO assessments, consisting of just 10 questions, can be valuable risk prediction tools for counselors who focus on helping students transition to college or university.

The authors add, “Using fear of missing out (FoMO) and demographic information, we were able to predict class membership (delinquent/user vs. non-delinquent/non-user) of students across several domains (drug alcohol and drugs, study misconduct, illegal behavior) well above the baseline (e.g., 50% at baseline versus 87% for academic misconduct).These results suggest that FoMO exists not only in as an aversive phenomenon, but that it also has concrete consequences for individuals and society.


Journal reference:

McKee, CP, et al. (2022) University student Fear of missing out (FoMO) and maladaptive behavior: traditional statistical modeling and predictive analysis using machine learning. PLOS ONE.