Saturday December 7, 2019

Smartphone Addiction Comes First, Depression Later: Study

When people feel stressed, they should use other healthy approaches to cope, like talking to a close friend to get support or doing some exercises or meditation, the researchers suggested

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Students, Smartphones, Obesity
Over 74 per cent of people type with two thumbs, and the speed increase it offers is very large. Pixabay

In a bid to rest the debate on what comes first — smartphone addiction or depression — a new study has found that young people who are hooked on to their smartphones may be at an increased risk of depression and loneliness.

A growing body of research has identified a link between smartphone dependency and symptoms of depression and loneliness.

However, it’s been unclear whether reliance on smartphones precedes those symptoms, or whether the reverse is true — that depressed or lonely people are more likely to become dependent on their phones.

In a study of 346 participants, ages 18-20, researcher Matthew Lapierre and his collaborators from University of Arizona found that smartphone dependency predicts higher reports of depressive symptoms and loneliness, rather than the other way around.

“The main takeaway is that smartphone dependency directly predicts later depressive symptoms,” said Lapierre, assistant professor in the department of communication.

“There’s an issue where people are entirely too reliant on the device, in terms of feeling anxious if they don’t have it accessible, and they’re using it to the detriment of their day-to-day life.”

In the study, which will be published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, Lapierre and his co-authors focus on smartphone dependency rather than on general smartphone use, which can actually provide benefits.

suicide, world, deaths, study
Depression is among the leading causes of disability in the U.S. and is being closely monitored by health authorities amid rising suicides nationwide. Pixabay

Understanding the direction of the relationship between smartphone dependency and poor psychological outcomes is critical for knowing how best to address the problem, said Pengfei Zhao who co-authored the study.

“If depression and loneliness lead to smartphone dependency, we could reduce dependency by adjusting people’s mental health,” Zhao said.

“But if smartphone dependency (precedes depression and loneliness), which is what we found, we can reduce smartphone dependency to maintain or improve wellbeing.”

The researchers measured smartphone dependency by asking study participants to use a four-point scale to rate a series of statements, such as “I panic when I cannot use my smartphone.”

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The study focused on older adolescents, a population researchers say is important because they largely grew up with smartphones and they are at an age and transitional stage in life where they are vulnerable to poor mental health outcomes, such as depression.

“It might be easier for late adolescents to become dependent on smartphones, and smartphones may have a bigger negative influence on them because they are already very vulnerable to depression or loneliness,” Zhao noted.

When people feel stressed, they should use other healthy approaches to cope, like talking to a close friend to get support or doing some exercises or meditation, the researchers suggested. (IANS)

Next Story

Depression in Parents Responsible for Brain Differences of Kids

Brain differences detected in kids with depressed parents

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Brain structure
Researchers detect brain differences in children with depressive parents. Lifetime Stock

Researchers have found structural differences in the brains of children at high risk for depression due to parental depressive history.

Depression is a common and debilitating mental health condition that typically arises during adolescence. While the causes of depression are complex, having a parent with depression is one of the biggest known risk factors.

Studies have consistently shown that adolescent children of parents with depression are two to three times more likely to develop depression than those with no parental history of depression.

“The findings highlight a potential risk factor that may lead to the development of depressive disorders during a peak period of onset, said study author Randy P. Auerbach, Associate Professor at Columbia University in the US.

“However, in our prior research, smaller putamen volumes also has been linked to anhedonia–a reduced ability to experience pleasure–which is implicated in depression, substance use, psychosis, and suicidal behaviours,” Auerbach said.

Depression brain
Having a parent with depression is one of the biggest known risk factors for the brain of the child. Lifetime Stock

“Thus, it may be that smaller putamen volume is a transdiagnostic risk factor that may confer vulnerability to broad-based mental disorders,” Auerbach added.

For the study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, the researchers analysed brain images from over 7,000 children in the United States participating in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive development (ABCD) study, led by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

According to the study, about one-third of the children were in the high-risk group because they had a parent with depression.

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The research found that in the high-risk children, the right putamen–a brain structure linked to reward, motivation, and the experience of pleasure–was smaller than in children with no parental history of depression.

“Understanding differences in the brains of children with familial risk factors for depression may help to improve early identification of those at greatest risk for developing depression themselves, and lead to improved diagnosis and treatment,” said study researcher David Pagliaccio. (IANS)