Introduction Alvin Toffler first used the term ‘information overload’ in his 1970 published book ‘Future Shock’. Nearly 50 years later, facing work without spatial or temporal boundaries, this concept becomes reality. We conducted a systematic review on the determinants of information overload and on its consequences on health, quality of life, performance and quality of work.
Methods We searched EBSCOhost (Academic Search Complete +BusinessSource Complete+PsycARTICLES+ PsycINFO+PSYNDEX), PubMed, and Web of Science (until March 2017) using a sensitive search string. Two independent reviewers screened the titles and abstracts for eligible articles and a third reviewer negotiated consensus. Further assessments of eligibility and quality assessment (of quantitative studies only) were conducted in a similar manner. The search resulted in 2535 records. The data of 33 full-text articles representing 16 quantitative and 18 qualitative studies were included and extracted. All quantitative studies were judged as of poor methodological quality: most studies applied a cross-sectional design and reported only univariate correlation coefficients. Due to the high heterogeneity of the studies, a meta-analysis could not be conducted.
Results The results of our systematic review point to a relationship between high information amount and perceived information overload. According to the included studies, information overload was positively associated with work time spent with Emails, work-to-family conflicts and negatively associated – inter alia – with technical support, segmentation between work and family life, and appropriate Email management techniques.
Discussion The most striking result was a clear lack of methodically sound studies on the determinants and consequences of information overload. Future studies on this important topic should provide a defined study base, should take the temporal sequence into account and should quantify information amount.
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