Are you reading this on your phone right now? If you're not, how far away is it from you right now? We're guessing not very far... But it might be time to step away from the our iPhones (OK, fine, and Androids) and start paying careful attention to how much we really use them: A new study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior successfully linked too much smartphone use with higher incidences of anxiety and depression. (Are You Too Attached to Your iPhone?)
Lead researcher Professor Alejandro Lleras, Ph.D., and co-author Tayana Panova looked at over 300 college-aged students' emotional states and technology habits. The students were each given questionnaires asking things like, "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?"
As with any self-reported study, feelings need to be taken with some grain of salt—but by no means should be brushed off.
"People who self-described as having really addictive-style behaviors toward the Internet and cellphones scored much higher on depression and anxiety scales," Lleras said in the study. Specifically, they found that those who spent more time on entertainment and apps had a greater association with a desire to shut out reality—the smartphone, essentially, becoming an escape mechanism.
However, "we shouldn't be scared of people connecting online or talking on their phones," Lleras said. "The interaction with the device is not going to make you depressed if you are just using it when you are bored." (Weirdly, Your Phone Can Pick Up On Depression Better Than You Can.)
So if you're finding yourself addicted to checking your phone—perhaps compusively at times—take a step back, put the phone down, and think about why you're playing Candy Crush or scrolling through Twitter at the moment. With the increasing role technology's taken in mental health, it's more important than ever to find the time to disconnect. (P.S. Cell Phone Addiction Is So Real People Are Going to Rehab for It.)