Excessive Cell Phone Use and Depression

In just a few years, most people have made extraordinary changes in how they experience life. Instead of interacting with other people face-to-face, observing the world around them and getting valuable health benefits from physical activities, people are spending hours each day sitting with their hands held up to their ears and living virtually. Cell phone use has been linked to increased instances of depression, and the tendency has been confirmed by multiple clinical studies.

Symptoms of Depression

Symptoms of smartphone-induced depression mirror the classic depression symptoms, so you might need to enlist your smartphone to diagnose your condition. Multiple studies have analyzed the stressful effects of sleep disturbances from phone calls in the middle of the night, constant accessibility and squinting to read and view information on small screens. Two illustrative examples of medical studies on cell phones and depression include:

  1. University of Gothenburg Studies
    Doctoral candidate Sara Thomée and her research team conducted four studies of cell phone use and excessive computing, and their findings showed strong correlations between sleep disorders and depression symptoms among heavy users of cell phones and computers.
  2. Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine Study
    This study correlated the symptoms of depression with cell phone use more quantitatively. Dr. Sohrob Saeb, lead researcher, used phone sensors in a blind study to estimate the likelihood that any given person would show signs of depression. The sensor data tracked cell phone and app use, instant messaging and GPS movement patterns to determine how active each study participant was, both physically and digitally. The results revealed that the more people used their phones and the fewer places they traveled, the more likely they were to show signs of mild-to-severe depression. Scientists were able to predict occurrences of symptoms of depression just by studying each person’s cell phone usage data.

It’s ironic that your cell phone could soon have an app that tells you when you’re using the device too often. Symptoms of depression include feeling sad, helpless or anxious, losing interest in hobbies and normal activities, having trouble concentrating, developing sleep disorders and feeling restless and irritable. If you spend lots of time on computers at work and then get directly on your phone, the risks of becoming depressed increase exponentially.

Taking Stock of Your Lifestyle and Habits

If you develop symptoms of depression, there could be many causes. However, it’s worth considering whether you’ve become a cell phone junkie. Spending too much time on the phone, caring more about your virtual relationships than your real-world friends or getting more upset about not getting phone calls or emails than whether people visit and interact with you personally are strong indications that you have digitally related problems.

If you awaken from your digital trance and realize that you’re spending all your time talking on the phone and squinting to read minuscule typefaces, power down the phone and walk through the neighborhood. Visit the park, plays games or sports with the family or go to a club without your phone. You’ll soon rediscover that there’s life or virtual life. Your phone is a tool, but if it’s causing depression, reassess your lifestyle.