Beware of Your Cell Phone: It May Make You Depressed

Your mobile phone.  It links you with friends, lets you know about events, even tells you the (bad) news that Trump's probably going to win the Republican nomination for president.

But did you know using it can also cause lead to anxiety and depression?  According to newswise.com, a new study from the University of Illinois finds that addiction to, and not simply use of, mobile technology is linked to anxiety and depression in college-age students.

 Researchers 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?"

 "People who self-described as having really addictive style behaviors toward the Internet and cellphones scored much higher on depression and anxiety scales," researchers say. However, they 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, they conclude.

In a follow-up study, researchers tested the role of having, but not using, a cellphone during a stressful situation. Predictably, individuals who were allowed to keep their cellphones during an experimental, stressful situation were less likely to be negatively affected by stress compared with those without their phones.

"Having access to a phone seemed to allow that group to resist or to be less sensitive to the stress manipulation," they say. This benefit was both small and short-lived, but suggests the phone might serve as a comfort item in stressful or anxiety-inducing situations.

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, researchers say.

"We shouldn't be scared of people connecting online or talking on their phones," they note. "The interaction with the device is not going to make you depressed if you are just using it when you are bored. This should go toward soothing some of that public anxiety over new technology."




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