Contrary to what most people would believe, the use of social media is not associated with higher levels of stress, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

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Using responses from 1,801 adults across the country, the survey found frequent internet and social media users do not have higher levels of stress. In fact, female social media users reported less stress in their everyday lives.

"I think it goes against what most people expect, and it certainly goes against what we expected," said Keith Hampton, a co-author of the report and an associate professor in the Department of Communication at Rutgers.

Hampton said women may consider sites like Facebook and Instagram as an outlet for sharing their feelings, or as a way to organize competing demands, thus taking away from their stress levels.

While the study fails to find a direct link between stress and social media usage, it does point to an indirect connection. Social media use can increase awareness of stressful events in the lives of others.

"As you become aware of stressful events in other people's lives, it does tend to increase your stress as well," Hampton said. "When we're aware of other people's stress, that does tend to come with a cost, and we refer to that as the cost of caring."

According to the report, the "cost of caring" finding adds to the evidence that stress is contagious. Greater awareness of outside stress led to higher levels of stress among survey participants, especially women.

Females were more likely than men to be aware of stressful events in the lives of their closest friends and family.