As increased videoconferencing during the COVID-19 pandemic led to widespread reports of "Zoom fatigue," scientists hypothesized that various psychological stress factors could lead to both physical and mental fatigue (Bailenson, 2020). A Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue Scale questionnaire (Fauville et al., Feb. 2020) assessed general physical or mental fatigue, vision blurriness, eye pain or irritation, and mental fatigue or irritability in social, motivational, and emotional areas. This questionnaire was distributed to thousands of individuals along with an open-ended question, questions addressing the psychological experience during a videoconference, and a question set assessing personality. There was a correlation among the general, visual/eye, emotional, motivational, and social fatigue scores that correlated with the amount of time spent in videoconferences, with women scoring higher than men (Fauville et al., April 2020). Several psychological factors helped to explain why videoconferences can be stressful.
While the Zoom study focuses on psychological factors contributing to Zoom fatigue, it does not assess or rule out the possibility that there could also be a physiological cause of symptoms, at least for a subset of individuals or as a contributing factor more broadly. It is interesting that many of the symptoms assessed in the Zoom study are also among the symptoms reported by individuals who are more generally sensitive to LED lights and/or screens, such as physical fatigue, vision blurriness, eye pain/irritation, irritability, and descriptions of mental fatigue that suggest feeling anxiety. The "mental fatigue" that is reported in Zoom fatigue could overlap with the concentration and short-term memory problems reported by individuals who are sensitive to LED lights and/or screens. Since the Zoom video feed can be a source of visible screen flicker (see Background: LED Screens), and given the known health effects of visible flicker (see Flicker below 100 Hz) it would be interesting to assess to what degree that flicker, as well as the flicker associated with any increase in screen use overall, contributes to Zoom fatigue symptoms. It would also be interesting to assess other physical symptoms such as headache.
Bailenson, J. Why Zoom Meetings Can Exhaust Us. Wall Street Journal, April 3, 2020. https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-zoom-meetings-can-exhaust-us-11585953336
Fauville, et al. Nonverbal Mechanism Predict Zoom Fatigue and Explain Why Women Experience Higher Levels Than Men. SSRN Electronic Journal. April 14, 2021. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3820035#
Fauville, et al. Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue Scale. SSRN Electronic Journal. February 23, 2021. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3786329