Your Smartphone Dependency Is Making You Lonely, According To New Study

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Ever find yourself scrolling through Twitter or Instagram when you're feeling down? If you have a smartphone, chances are you have. In fact, you might even bet that loneliness and depression are good predictors of increased phone dependency.

You wouldn't be alone in thinking that, but according to a new study, you'd be wrong. In fact, new research from the University of Arizona revealed that it may be the other way around: that a person's reliance on his or her phone is a good predictor of loneliness and depression.

Published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, the study collected data from 346 participants between the ages of 17 and 20 years old. They chose "older adolescents" on purpose, mainly because they grew up with smartphones but also because the age group is particularly vulnerable to mental health issues. At the study's start, the participants answered questions about their mental health and smartphone habits using a four-point scale to rate statements like "I panic when I cannot use my smartphone." About four months later, they took the questionnaire a second time.

The results showed that smartphone dependency directly predicts later depressive symptoms. Keep in mind that the team focused specifically on dependency, not just general usage. As Lapierre explained, "The research grows out of my concern that there is too much of a focus on general use of smartphones... Smartphones can be useful. They help us connect with others. We've really been trying to focus on this idea of dependency and problematic use of smartphones being the driver for these psychological outcomes." In other words, your smartphone can actually be good for your health if you use it in a healthy way, but becoming dependent on it is likely to damage your mental health in the long run.

The authors conclude that given the results of the study, it is likely a good idea for individuals to evaluate their relationship with their phone and set boundaries or time limits. "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," said Pengfei Zhao, co-authored the study. If you're looking for a place to start, try these tips for healthy smartphone habits. And if you need a little more motivation, here's how staring at a screen can affect your brain, anxiety, and overall health.

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