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Cellphone addiction linked to depression

By Faeza
04 March 2016

Depression and cellphone addiction

A University of Illinois study found that addiction to mobile technology, like cellphones and tablets, is linked to anxiety and depression in college-age students.

Surveying cellphone users

Psychology professor Alejandro Lleras and with undergraduate honours student Tayana Panova surveyed over 300 university students with questionnaires that addressed the students' mental health, amount of cellphone and Internet use, and motivation  for turning to their electronic devices.

Survey questions included: "Do you think that your academic or work performance has been negatively affected by your cellphone use?" and "Do you think that life without the Internet is boring, empty and sad?"

The goal was to see if addictive and self-destructive behaviours with phones and the Internet related to mental health.

"People who self-described as having really addictive style behaviours toward the Internet and cellphones scored much higher on depression and anxiety scales," Prof Lleras said.

However, the researchers found no relationship between cellphone or Internet use and negative mental health outcomes among participants who used these technologies to escape from boredom. Thus, the motivation for going online is an important factor in relating technology usage to depression and anxiety, Prof Lleras said.

Turning to cellphones for comfort

In a follow-up study, Prof Lleras tested the role of having, but not using, a cellphone during a stressful situation. Individuals who were allowed to keep their cellphones during an experimental, stressful situation were less likely to be negatively affected by stress compared with those without their phones.

"People who self-described as having really addictive style behaviours toward the Internet and cellphones scored much higher on depression and anxiety scales." - Prof Alejandro Lleras

"Having access to a phone seemed to allow that group to resist or to be less sensitive to the stress manipulation," Prof Lleras said. This benefit was both small and short-lived, but suggests the phone might serve as a comfort item in stressful or anxiety-inducing situations.

So what’s the take home message?

Avoid checking your cellphone repeatedly and compulsively but, feel free to whip it out when you’re bored.

"We shouldn't be scared of people connecting online or talking on their phones," he said. "The interaction with the device is not going to make you depressed if you are just using it when you are bored. This should go toward soothing some of that public anxiety over new technology."

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign via Sciencedaily.com