Are cell phones making us depressed? Although some complain about the negative side effects of modern technology, it turns out that, for most people, using cell phones and the Internet does not adversely impact users’ emotional state. Research from the University of Illinois reveals that the motivation behind mobile technology use affects whether or not people feel depressed or anxious from using it, with an addiction to mobile technology being linked to anxiety and depression in college students. The results could lead to supplemental treatments for anxiety disorder and depression.
The researchers wanted to find out if addictive or self-destructive behavior with mobile technology was related to mental health. They administered questionnaires to 300 university students, asking about students’ mental health, levels of cell phone and Internet use, and their motivations for using electronic devices. The students answered questions like “Do you think your academic or work performance has been negatively affected by your cell phone use?” and “Do you think that life without the Internet is boring, empty and sad?”
The study found that people who rated high on measures of addictive behaviors also had higher levels of depression and anxiety. “People who self-described as having really addictive style behaviors toward the Internet and cell phones scored much higher on depression and anxiety scales,” explained psychology professor Alejando Lleras, co-investigator of the study. Students who used their cell phones to alleviate boredom did not have the same addictive or anxiety-related behaviors, which suggests that motivation is a key factor in whether technology impacts anxiety.
More research is needed to fully understand the relationship between mobile technology and mental health. The findings emphasize that there is no need to fear technology and they indicate that breaking addictive technology habits could be an important part in treating some mental health issues
This research is published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.