Research: Smartphone dependency predicts higher reports of depressive symptoms

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In a bid to rest the debate on what comes first – smartphone addiction or depression – a new study has found that young people who are hooked on to their smartphones may be at an increased risk of depression and loneliness.

Research has identified a link between smartphone dependency and symptoms of depression and loneliness. However, it’s been unclear whether dependence on smartphones leads those symptoms, or whether the reverse is true that depressed or lonely people are more likely to become dependent on their phones.

In a study of 346 participants, ages 18-20, researchers from the University of Arizona found that smartphone dependency predicts higher reports of depressive symptoms rather than the other way around.

“There’s an issue where people are totally 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.”

“If depression and loneliness lead to smartphone dependency, we could reduce dependency by adjusting people’s mental health,” the researcher said. “But if smartphone dependency (precedes depression and loneliness), which is what we found, we can reduce smartphone dependency to maintain or improve wellbeing.”

The study focused on older adolescents because researchers said they grew up with smartphones and they are at an age and transitional stage in life where they are vulnerable to poor mental health outcomes, such as depression.

When people feel stressed, they should use other healthy approaches to cope, like talking to a close friend to get support or doing some exercises or meditation, the researchers suggested.

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