Psychological Effects of Smartphone Use – Scientific Evidence

smartphone use

Studies so far have failed to establish a causal link between smartphone use and negative emotional and behavioral tendencies. src

Smartphones are More Likely to Make Us Smarter, Happier, and More Fulfilled than Anxious and Depressed

While most people are quick to blame technology for the woes of modern society, emerging evidence seems to blame the users. At the end of the day, the effects of these technologies on our lives boil down to the ways we use them. For instance, while some people get caught up in being early adopters, or caught up in FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) on social media platforms, others use the platforms to achieve personal and professional growth by banding with nurturing communities.

Our smartphones become obstructive to our wellbeing when they introduce negative influences to our mental, emotional, social, and behavioral processes. On the other hand, our smartphones also provide us with vast ways of improving ourselves and reaching our goals.  Our smartphones can excite us, stoke curiosity, banish boredom, and help us overcome geographical limitations.

Two psychology professors, Candice Odgers and Michaeline Jensen of the University of North Carolina, have weighed in on the matter with a holistic approach. They examined over 40 studies probing the links between the use of smartphones and depression and anxiety. They concluded that the link, if any, is negligible, as is the possibility of smartphone usage being the causative agent in the negative equation.

According to the professors, the results of studies so far have been incompatible. They also noted that the most recent and thorough studies used methodologies that do not distinguish between cause and effects.

Their findings echoed conclusions similar to those published a few weeks earlier by Amy Obern, a researcher at the University of Cambridge. Like the professors, Obern scoured through over 80 papers and reviews relating to the negative psychological effects of smartphone use. She also drew attention to the open-ended nature of these studies.

Recently, Jeff Hancock, the founder of the Stanford Social Media Lab, also proffered similar propositions, according to the New York Times.

The results of these findings suggest that the widespread concerns about the psychological risks of smartphone use have largely been a hyperbole. Most people are still capable of striking a healthy balance between their screen time and real-life activities.

These new findings question how genuine and transparent the researches on the subject are. Orben also called for the studies to “show a greater appreciation for the individual differences that will inherently shape each {individual’s} reaction to digital technologies.”

How to avoid the negative psychological effects of smartphone use

psychological effects of smartphone use

We can avoid the negative consequences of regular smartphone use by doing away with friends and groups that do not contribute to our emotional and mental well being. src


Researchers believe you can explore the following tips to use your smartphone healthily and productively all the time:

  • Limit yourself only to activities that promote happiness:

Social media can charge emotions on all points of the spectrum. You need to make a conscious decision to stay away from people and groups that drain you emotionally and promote fear and self-doubt.

A recent study shows that over 30% of young people dealing with acute depression use social media to vent, inspire themselves, and flex their creativity to stave off symptoms of depression and anxiety.

  • Learn new things:

We can use technology to constantly improve our personal and professional lives by learning new things every day. We can use our smartphones to raise our mindfulness, improve productivity, and promote a healthy, sustainable lifestyle.

From alternative health practices to learning skills, psychological hacks, and business tips, our smartphones give us access to a treasure trove of valuable information. You can take advantage of online courses, mindfulness apps, fitness apps, etc.

  • Keep abreast with health information:

Studies show that over 80% of young adults source their health information online. Ninety percent of young people suffering from mental health issues go online to get help. Research also shows that people who source their health information online feel more confident and knowledgeable, especially when they interact with health experts. Our smartphones give us access to a wide pool of information on clinical and anecdotal evidence of treatments for various ailments.

Summing up

Our smartphones are a double-edged sword. Their impacts on our lives depend on how we put them to use. They can be used to complement – not replace – our real-life experiences and to promote happiness and self-confidence.

It’s also healthy to get a digital detox every once in a while. But it’s erroneous to believe that you can get your ‘old self’ back and feel as good as you used to when you weren’t so attached to your smartphone in the past. On the contrary, you can become smarter, happier, and more fulfilled by exploring the beneficial potentials of smartphones.

Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.