People addicted to smartphones are more likely to feel depressed, anxious and lonely, a study has found. Researchers said that overuse of smartphones is just like any other type of substance abuse.
"The behavioural addiction of smartphone use begins forming neurological connections in the brain in ways similar to how opioid addiction is experienced by people taking Oxycontin for pain relief — gradually," said Erik Peper from San Francisco State University in the US.
In a survey of 135 students, the researchers have found that students who used their phones the most reported higher levels of feeling isolated, lonely, depressed and anxious.
According to the study, published in the journal NeuroRegulation, they believe the loneliness is partly a consequence of replacing face-to-face interaction with a form of communication where body language and other signals cannot be interpreted.
The researchers also found that those same students almost constantly multitasked while studying, watching other media, eating or attending class.
This constant activity allows little time for bodies and minds to relax and regenerate, said Peper, and also results in "semi-tasking," where people do two or more tasks at the same time — but half as well as they would have if focused on one task at a time.
The researchers noted that digital addiction is not our fault but a result of the tech industry's desire to increase corporate profits.
"Push notifications, vibrations and other alerts on our phones and computers make us feel compelled to look at them by triggering the same neural pathways in our brains that once alerted us to imminent danger, such as an attack by a tiger or other large predator," Pepper said.
But, according to the researchers, we can take charge and train ourselves to be less addicted to our phones and computers. The first step is recognising that tech companies are manipulating our innate biological responses to danger.
Peper suggested that we should turn off push notifications, only respond to email and social media at specific times to focus on important tasks