Researchers at the University of Arizona have just made the connection between smartphone addiction and the risk of depression. It seems that young people who are addicted to their screens are susceptible to loneliness and depression.
Maybe it’s time to let go of your smartphone! According to a new study by researchers from the University of Arizona, young people who are addicted to mobile phones are more likely to suffer from depression and loneliness.
“A significant number of studies have found a link between smartphone addiction and the symptoms of depression and loneliness,” says the study. However, it is unclear whether smartphone use precedes these symptoms or whether, conversely, depressed and lonely people become more dependent on their phones.
In other words, if there is a link between screen addiction and depression, researchers wonder whether the smartphone is a cause or a consequence of depressive pathologies.
Smartphones used at the expense of everyday life
Researcher Matthew Lapierre did his research among 346 teenagers between 18 and 20 years old. According to his results, smartphone addiction predicts a greater number of depressive symptoms and loneliness than the opposite.
“The main takeaway is that smartphone dependency directly predicts later depressive symptoms,” says Matthew Lapierre, professor at the Communications Department of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. The problem: users who are too dependent on their laptop use it at the expense of their daily lives.
“The research grows out of my concern that there is too much of a focus on general use of smartphones,” says Matthew Lapierre. Smartphones can be useful. They enable us to communicate with others.
But although the smartphone has many advantages, some people go far beyond the general use of the device (calling, texting and photos). They appreciate the other characteristics of smartphones (games and social networks) and are exposed to the real possibility of psychological addiction.
A series of statements such as “I panic when I can’t use my smartphone”
To measure the smartphone addiction of 346 young people, researchers asked them to use a four-point scale to respond to a series of statements, such as “I panic when I can’t use my smartphone”.
Participants also answered questions aimed at assessing their loneliness and possible depressive symptoms. The adolescents answered the questions at the beginning of the study and again three or four months later.
Adolescents, more prone to depression
Why did you decide to do the research on adolescents? For two simple reasons, according to the researchers. First, young people aged between 18 and 20 are in a transitional phase. They are therefore more vulnerable to mental health and depression. In addition, this population of smartphone users has grown strongly.
“It may be easier for adolescents to become dependent on smartphones, and they may have a greater negative impact on them, as they are already very vulnerable to depression or loneliness,” confirmed one of the researchers.
If it is discovered that screen addiction is indeed the cause of depressive syndromes, as the researchers claim, the challenge is to reduce people’s dependence on smartphones in order to maintain or improve their well-being.
Other ways to deal with fear
Previous studies have shown that the smartphone is a way for some teenagers to regulate their stress.
Researchers therefore propose to find other ways to control anxiety, shortening the time spent on the smartphone. “It can be interesting for individuals to assess their relationship with their device and set limits if necessary,” the scientists explain. When people feel stressed, they need to use other methods to deal with the situation, such as talking to a loved one for help, relaxation and meditation exercises.
On the contrary, when depression is the cause of a smartphone addiction, researchers suggest that a way needs to be found to improve the mental health of young people.