Why spending a long time on your phone isn’t bad for mental health

General smartphone use is a poor predictor of anxiety, depression or stress, say researchers, who advise caution when it comes to digital detoxes.

The study published in Technology, mind and behavior was directed by Heather Shaw and Kristoffer Geyer from Lancaster University with Dr. David Ellis and Dr. Brittany Davidson from the University of Bath and Dr. Fenja Ziegler and Alice Smith from Lincoln College.

They measured the time spent on smartphones by 199 iPhone users and 46 Android users over a week. Participants were also asked about their mental and physical health, completing clinical scales that measure symptoms of anxiety and depression. They also filled out a scale to measure how problematic they found their smartphone use.

Surprisingly, the amount of time spent on the smartphone was not related to poor mental health.

Lead author Heather Shaw of Lancaster University’s Department of Psychology said, “A person’s daily smartphone pickups or screen time did not predict anxiety, depression, or stress symptoms. In addition, those who exceeded clinical ‘cut-off points’ for both general anxiety and depression. disorder did not use their phone more than those who scored below this threshold. ”

Instead, the study found that mental health was linked to concerns and concerns that participants felt about their own smartphone use.

This was measured by their scores on a problematic usage scale, where they were asked to rate statements such as’ Using my smartphone for longer than I intended ‘and’ I have tried again and again to shorten my smartphone usage time, but failed all the time ‘.

Heather Shaw said, “It’s important to separate actual use of devices from people’s concerns and concerns about technology. This is because the former has no significant relationship to mental health, but the latter does.”

Previous studies focused on the potentially damaging impact of ‘screen time’, but the study shows that people’s attitudes or concerns are likely to drive these findings.

Dr. David Ellis, of the University of Bath’s School of Management, said: “Mobile technologies have become even more important to work and daily life during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our results add to a growing body of research that suggests it reducing overall screen time won’t make people happier.Instead of reaping the benefits of digital detox, our research suggests people would benefit from measures to allay the concerns and fears that have arisen around phone use . ”


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