In our technology-driven world, most of us are hugely reliant on our smartphones, and most of the time, we think they’re just great. They give use access to endless amounts of information at the touch of a button, help us feel and stay connected and are excellent should we have an emergency phone call. However, a new study has said that if you’re spending over an hour a day on your phone, you could be more prone to depression.
A US study has suggested that monitoring phone data could be a simple way to assess whether someone is feeling upbeat or down in the dumps.
According to the study, conducted by Northwestern University in the States, the more time spent using a phone for any reason including texting and going online, the more likely volunteers were to have the blues. The average daily usage for depressed individuals was about 68 minutes, while for non-depressed individuals it was about 17 minutes.
“When people are depressed, they tend to withdraw and don’t have the motivation or energy to go out and do things.”
Monitoring people’s comings and goings using GPS tracking on their phones also helped track mood, according to the study. Spending most of your time at home or at a small number of locations was also linked to depression, as was having an unregular daily schedule, such as unusual shift patterns.
“When people are depressed, they tend to withdraw and don’t have the motivation or energy to go out and do things,” said senior author David Mohr, director of the Centre for Behavioural Intervention Technologies at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Around 1 in 10 are said to suffer from signs of depression, which is fairly high.
“The data showing depressed people tended not to go many places reflects the loss of motivation seen in depression,” Mohr continued.
While the phone usage data didn’t identify how people were using their phones, Mohr said he suspected people who spent the most time on them were surfing the web or playing games, rather than talking to friends.
“People are likely, when on their phones, to avoid thinking about things that are troubling, painful feelings or difficult relationships,” Mohr he added: “It’s an avoidance behavior we see in depression,” he explained.
The study involved tracking 20 women and eight men with an average age of 29 for two weeks.
In a way, the findings do make sense. Even the smallest of tasks, such as scanning through your friend’s Facebook timeline on a Saturday night – say if they are going out and you’re sitting in, for example – can bring about a case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and can generally make you feel blue because you may then think you’re not doing something exciting or whatever the case may be. FOMO could potentially then trigger feelings or symptoms of depression. Often people forget that social media merely presents snapshots of specific (usually happy) moments in time, and unless you’re Taylor Swift, are not a truthful indication of anyone’s real life or the problems they might be dealing with.
So, if you’re not having the best of days, it might be time to put the phone away (even if it’s just for an afternoon), and focus on doing other activities. Go for a walk on the beach, listen to your favourite song or eat your favourite food and just generally try to revive your mindset in a technology-free zone.
It’s an interesting theory and study though, what do you make of it? Do you agree with the findings?
Read the full study here.