Phone Addiction Is Real -- And So Are Its Mental Health Risks

Forbes, December 11, 2017, By Alice G. Walton, Contributor

"A lot of us must be wondering if we're hooked on our tech: Searches for 'phone addiction' have risen steadily in the past five years, according to Google Trends, and 'social media addiction' trails it closely. Interestingly, phone addiction and social media addiction are closely intertwined, especially for younger people, who probably aren’t playing chess on their phones or even talking on them—they’re on social media. And according to a growing number of studies, it’s looking more and more like this pastime is addictive. Even more concerning is the fact that this addiction is linked to some serious mental health risks.

Last month, MIT’s Sloan Management Review published a clever experiment—professors at two business schools in Italy and France made giving up one's smartphone for a day a requirement of the students in their courses. Most of the students, who could plan what day they’d give up their phones, felt some degree of anxiety. They didn’t know what to do with the extra time, from eating breakfast to riding on public transportation. They also noted how often people who did have phones checked their phones—one student pointed out that his friend checked his phone four times in a 10 minute period—and that that was probably what they themselves looked like on a typical day.

An earlier study, in the U.S., which also had young people give up their phones, found that they performed worse on mental tasks when they were in 'withdrawal,' and felt physiological symptoms, like increased heart rate and blood pressure. They also felt a sense of loss, or lessening, of their extended self—their phones.

But the reality, especially for younger people, is that phone use, especially heavy use, isn’t so lighthearted. A study last month looked at the rise in depression and suicide in teenagers in recent years. The CDC had noted a rise in the rates of both over the years 2010-2015, and found that girls were particularly at risk: Their suicide rate rose by 65% in those five years. The number of girls with severe depression rose by 58%.'..."

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