Americans are dependent on their iPhones and Androids — and for good reason. Not only can you use it to call and text, but you can also play music, take photos, read the news, check the time, order a cab and more. The list never ends (or it seems that way, at least). To many, cell phones have become a vital part of daily life, but what you might not know is that they have the potential to be harmful to your health. Excessive smartphone use can cause depression.
A 2018 study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health found an “alarming” correlation between smartphone addiction and depression among a Middle Eastern sample group. Researchers said that reasonable usage of mobile phones is advised particularly among younger adults and less educated users, who could be at higher risk of developing symptoms of depression. Experiments among Lebanese and Austrian university students found similar results.
Another study by researcher Jean Twenge found that teens who spend five or more hours per day on their phones are 71% more likely to become depressed. Those who spent more time playing sports, doing homework and socializing with friends face-to-face showed a lower risk.
“I think a great rule for both teens and adults is to try to keep your use at two hours a day or less,” Twenge told NPR. Twenge — a San Diego State University professor, psychologist and author of more than 140 scientific works — says 14 is the ideal age for a teen’s first smartphone. Why? Social media use and unhappiness are the strongest for 8th graders versus their older peers, she says. Two hours of phone time is “the sweet spot,” and three hours or more creates a pronounced risk for depression in both teens and adults.
How do you know if you’re experiencing the adverse effects of depression? According to the Mayo Clinic, signs could include sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, a loss of interest or pleasure in day-to-day activities, anger, frustration, insomnia, lack of energy, reduced or increased appetite, weight loss or gain, anxiety, restlessness, slowed thinking, trouble concentrating, memory loss, back pain, headaches and suicidal thoughts. If you think a loved one is struggling with any of these symptoms, here’s how to help them. Unfortunately, depression is just one of many ways your cell phone is affecting your health.