Do you use phones to combat negative thoughts? Then you may be at a higher risk of developing anxiety and depression, warns a new study.
The University of Illinois' Alejandro Lleras, who conducted this study with undergraduate honors student Tayana Panova, said that there's a long history of the public fearing new technologies as they are deployed in society. This fear of new technology happened with televisions, video games and most recently, smartphones.
‘Long-term utilization of cell phones and the internet as an emotional coping strategy may have a negative influence on mental health.’
Lleras and Panova surveyed over 300 university students with questionnaires that addressed the students' mental health, amount of cellphone and Internet use, and motivations for turning to their electronic devices. 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 behaviors with phones and the Internet related to mental health. The study was published in the Journal Computers in Human Behavior
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.
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, Lleras said.
While the role of phones as comfort items is somewhat tenuous, the relationship between motivation for cellphone or Internet use and mental health warrants further exploration, Lleras noted, adding that breaking addictive technology habits may provide an important supplemental treatment for addressing mental health issues such as general anxiety disorder or depression.