Sunday, 15 November 2015

Smartphone Use Linked to Negative Consequences in Mental Health

Most of us can relate to when we walk downtown or ride a city bus, and observe that the majority of the people around us are using a smartphone. It is estimated that there is a whopping 1.5 billion smartphone users around the world. Not to mention, some people spend almost nine hours a day using their cell-phones. These days smartphones are not just used as a form of communication but they offer a wide variety of features including games, access to the Internet, specifically, social networks, and for a navigation tool. With the increasing use of smartphones, one may wonder what the negative physical and psychological consequences are.   

Recent research has found an association between smartphone use and mental health, specifically depression and anxiety. To investigate this relationship, DemirciAkgönüland Akpinar (2015) assessed 319 university students using the Smartphone Addiction Scale (SAS) and then separated the participants into three groups: smartphone non-users, low smartphone use and high smartphone use. High smartphone use or smartphone addiction was defined as the overuse of smartphones to the extent that it disturbs a person's daily functioning. The groups were then measured and compared on their sleep quality, and depressive and anxiety symptoms.  

The results revealed that depression, anxiety and daytime dysfunction were significantly higher in the group where individuals used their smartphones a lot. Furthermore, individuals who used smartphones a lot were found to have higher levels of depression than individuals in the low smartphone use group. Although high smartphone use did not have a direct association with quality of sleep, it was found that higher levels of smartphone use and poor sleep quality predicted depression/anxiety. Moreover, depression and anxiety also predicted poor sleep quality. 

Although these results are correlational, it is important to still note that the high use of smartphones is a risk factor for depression and/or anxiety which can in turn lead to sleep problems. Overall, these findings can be used with individuals with depression and anxiety by monitoring their smartphone use so the severity of their disorders do not increase as a result of an associated smartphone addiction.

The results aren't necessarily what one would like to hear, but they are definitely a wake up call to the many smartphone users that rely on this multifaceted form of communication every day. Not only is smartphone use associated with mental health but in turn it could effect people's daily lives in areas such as academic performance and social interactions. With this in mind, you should reconsider the amount of time you are spending on these devices and instead spend more time in real life social interactions! You should look at ways in which you could reduce your smartphone use. For example, you could set boundaries to where you can use your smartphone, turn off your phone before bed, and limit the amount of time you spend per day replying to text messages. Besides, people survived before smartphones were invented anyways right? 

Demirci, K., Akgönül, M., & Akpinar, A. (2015). Relationship of smartphone use severity with sleep quality, depression, and anxiety in university students. Journal of Behavioral Addictions4(2), 85-92. doi:10.1556/2006.4.2015.010 

-Janelle Steckley

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