Smartphones are now causing young adults stress, anxiety and even depression
Study reveals smartphone addiction or problematic smartphone use is a real thing and it negatively affects the mental health of children and young adults.
It’s hard to imagine a life without smartphones these days. They make life so easy and help us stay connected and entertained 24x7. However, overuse of smartphones has been connected to various health problems that range from text neck and disturbed sleeping pattern to trigger thumb.
Now, a meta-analysis published in BMC Psychiatry, a peer-reviewed journal, shows that smartphone addiction or problematic smartphone use is a real thing and it negatively affects the mental health of children and young adults.
Dr Ben Carter, the lead author of the study and senior lecturer of Biostatistics at King’s College, London, explained the extent of the problem in his study. He wrote that about one in every four children and young adults has problematic smartphone use and as a result, suffer from depression, anxiety and even suicide ideation. If not controlled in time, it may have grave implications on their life long health.
The meta-analysis included 41 studies (three cohorts and 38 cross-sectional ones) comprising 41,871 participants across Europe, Asia and America. More than half (55%) of the participants were females.
Communication or internet use to get peer acceptance was one of the most common types of problematic smartphone use and the affected group included teenagers between 17 years and 19 years. Males with problematic smartphone use spent more time on games and other media applications while females spent more hours on social media. Children in the higher socio-economic groups were more likely to get addicted to smartphones than those with a low family income.
The most common problem associated with these cases was depression. Those with problematic smartphone use also had some level of anxiety, poor sleep quality and stress. However, the evidence is not as strong for suicide ideation and poor educational performance.
Impulsive people, perfectionists, those who have poor self-control or are emotionally unstable are more prone to problematic smartphone use.
A modern problem
Since smartphones became widely available in 2011, their use has increased significantly among children. Though a lot of researchers warn about the psychological effects of excessive smartphone use, there is an opposite sect that says it is not as harmful as portrayed.
In his study, Carter explained the possible reason for these differences: he wrote that most of the studies that couldn’t confirm the negative effects were done before smartphone use became prevalent. Problematic smartphone use, he explained, is just like any behavioural addiction: people with problematic smartphone use experience withdrawal symptoms if the smartphone is taken away from them, and they continue to use the phones regularly despite the apparent harm it causes them. However, since smartphones are socially accepted, the overuse is often neglected and is difficult to control. Also, for an unknown reason, females are more prone to problematic smartphone use than males.
Regardless, problematic smartphone use is a huge public health concern - much larger than alcoholism or gambling addiction. It needs to be clinically addressed to reduce the burden of mental health conditions on the healthcare system.
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