The Modern Sign of Loneliness And Depression

This modern trend could be causing mental health problems.

This modern trend could be causing mental health problems.

Being hooked on smartphone use can be a sign of depression and loneliness, research suggests.

While smartphones are useful modern devices, dependency can lead to poor mental health.

People who are dependent on their smartphones tend to strongly agree with statements like “I panic when I cannot use my smartphone.”

Dr Matthew Lapierre, the study’s first author, said:

“The main takeaway is that smartphone dependency directly predicts later depressive symptoms.

There’s an issue where people are entirely too reliant on the device, in terms of feeling anxious if they don’t have it accessible, and they’re using it to the detriment of their day-to-day life.”

The study included 346 young adults who were surveyed about their smartphone use and followed up three to four months later.

The results showed that smartphone dependency, not just use, predicted higher levels of depression and loneliness.

The reverse, though, was not true: depression and loneliness did not lead to smartphone dependency.

It is critical to know if smartphone use is causing psychological problems or not, said Ms Pengfei Zhao, study co-author:

“If depression and loneliness lead to smartphone dependency, we could reduce dependency by adjusting people’s mental health.

But if smartphone dependency (precedes depression and loneliness), which is what we found, we can reduce smartphone dependency to maintain or improve wellbeing.”

Young adults are at a higher risk of mental health problems because they are at a transitional stage in life, said Ms Zhao:

“It might be easier for late adolescents to become dependent on smartphones, and smartphones may have a bigger negative influence on them because they are already very vulnerable to depression or loneliness.”

The study was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health (Lapierre et al., 2019).

Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.

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