How do you think your mobile phone affects your brain, or your mental health? 🧠
We probably all have intuitions about how our phones affect our well-being, and the recent reports on how Facebook and Instagram are said to affect teenagers’ mental health may have sparked some reflection.
Our relationship with our phone is complex, and involves more than just social media – it includes email, WhatsApp, the news etc. Given the importance of this topic, I thought it would be useful to summarise the research in this area, which has tended to focus on four key areas:
1. The amount we use our phone
2. Whether or not we use our phone around bedtime
3. The psychological factors associated with high phone use
4. Our use of social media
Let’s look at each in turn:
1. How does the amount you use your phone affect your mental health and well-being?
Among the studies of adults, adolescents and children, it has been found that time spent on mobile phones (either frequency of use or duration) is associated with increased risk of depression, lower mental well-being, stress, anxiety, less psychological detachment from work, exhaustion, and lower sleep quality.
2. How does using your phone around bedtime impact your metal health and well-being?
An interesting area of focus, bedtime mobile phone use is defined as phone use prior to bedtime, in bed, after ‘lights out’, or even just the presence of a phone in the bedroom. Bedtime use has been found to be associated with with depression, anxiety and stress, lower sleep quality and reduced daytime function.
3. What other psychological factors are associated with high mobile phone use?
High mobile phone use has also been found to be associated with impulsivity, neuroticism, lower self-esteem, loneliness, social anxiety, shyness, and fear of missing out.
4. How does your use of social media affect your well-being?
This is a complex topic in itself. Social media is a broad term covering different platforms that people use in different ways (compare LinkedIn vs Instagram vs Twitter).
It’s not all bad – some studies suggest social media can have a positive impact (for example, in their capacity to offer support networks). However, the majority of studies that have focused on anxiety and depression, have found that using social media can have a detrimental effect on the psychological health of its users. One systematic review found that time spent, activity, investment, and addiction to social media all correlated with depression, anxiety and psychological distress in adolescents.
I think there are some clear take aways from this research. If you really care about your mental health:
- Use your mobile phone less
- Don’t use your phone in bed
- Use social media more consciously
- Create a dialogue with the people you love about mobile phone use and the implications for our mental health and well-being.