'Compulsive' Smartphone Use Negatively Impacts Your Psychological Wellbeing

New Australian study

27 March 2019

Article heading image for 'Compulsive' Smartphone Use Negatively Impacts Your Psychological Wellbeing

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New research has shown the damage regularly reaching for a smartphone can cause on psychological wellbeing, with significantly more negative emotions experienced.

The study, conducted by researchers at Deakin University and published in the Computers in Human Behaviour journal, focused on a group of more than 500 people from Victorian universities and their smartphone behaviour. 

Lead researcher Dr Sharon Horwood told the Hit Newsroom that a heightened use impacted on feelings of control, autonomy over your life, personal growth and even having a sense of directional purpose in life.

"We found that people who are using their phone in a problematic way have a reduced sense of psychological wellbeing, and a reduced sense of subjective wellbeing as well," Dr Horwood said.

Interestingly, the research also found that smartphone use is significantly different to the basic phone functions of text messaging and calling, with more positive results recorded for people using these features more prominently.

"It seems to be that connecting with another person directly does have a positive association with wellbeing, as opposed to connecting with people in a passive way and looking at social media feeds. So engaging with real people seems to be a good thing," Dr Horwood said.

This comes down to active (as opposed to passive) engagement, with issues predominantly arising from scrolling-related smartphone use through social media feeds.

"The key takeout is to try to minimise your phone use. Don't use it in a way which is perhaps habitual, automatic or compulsive."

"We seem to have this really constant stream of information in our lives, and it's quite often negative if we're looking at news feeds, or even a sense of feeling inadequate if we're looking at the constant social media expectations of having a perfect life.

Dr Horwood's advice for anyone looking to change their smartphone behaviour is to cut the number of push notifications you are allowing on your phone, and ensure that you're not being bombarded with unnecessary information.

"Things like reducing the number of apps you have and notifications is a really easy way to start," she said.

"Only have the really important things that you have to know about (with notifications on), so that will stop phones from interrupting you all throughout the day and into the night.

"And another really good tip is to not have your phone beside the bed. If you're using it as an alarm clock, maybe get an analog clock and use that instead. Put your phone on charge in a different room."

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