General smartphone use is a bad predictor of anxiety, depression or stress, say the researchers, who advise caution when it comes to digital detoxes.
The study published in Technology, mind and behavior it was led by Heather Shaw and Kristoffer Geyer of Lancaster University with Dr David Ellis and Dr Brittany Davidson of the University of Bath and Dr Fenja Ziegler and Alice Smith of the University of Lincoln.
They measured the time spent on smartphones by 199 iPhone users and 46 Android users for a week. Participants were also asked about their mental and physical health, completing clinical scales that measure symptoms of anxiety and depression. They also completed a scale that measured how problematic their smartphone use was.
Surprisingly, the amount of time spent on the smartphone was unrelated to poor mental health.
Lead author Heather Shaw of Lancaster University’s Department of Psychology said, “Daily smartphone retreats or time spent in front of a person’s screen did not predict anxiety, depression, or symptoms of stress. Also, those who passed.” “Clinical cutoff points for both general anxiety and major depression disorder did not use the phone more than those who scored below this threshold.”
Instead, the study found that mental health was associated with participants’ concerns and concerns about their 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 longer than I expected” and “Having tried multiple times to shorten the usage time of the my smartphone but not always succeeding “.
Heather Shaw said: “It is important to consider the actual use of the device separately from people’s concerns and concerns about technology. This is because the former does not show any notable relationship to mental health, while the latter does.”
Previous studies have focused on the potentially damaging impact of “screen time,” but the study shows that people’s attitudes or concerns are likely to drive these results.
Dr David Ellis, of the University of Bath’s School of Management, said: “Mobile technologies have become even more essential for work and daily life during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our findings add to a growing body. Research suggesting reducing overall screen time won’t make people happier. Instead of pushing the benefits of digital detox, our research suggests that people would benefit from measures to address the worries and fears that have grown around time. spent using phones “.
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