Do Smartphones Contribute to Depression and Relationship Problems?

girl-selfieCell and smartphone use has become a staple of modern life.  According to the Pew Research Center,  nearly 2/3 of Americans are smartphone owners and those numbers continue to climb every day.  Recent polls in 2015 show smartphone usage includes:

  • 64% of American adults now own a smartphone of some kind
  • 85% of young adults are now smartphone owners

And more of us are using smartphones for daily tasks that used to require a computer, that we now perform mobile and while multi-tasking:

  • 62% of smartphone owners used their phone in the past year to research a health condition.
  • 57% have used their phone to do online banking.
  • 44% have used their phone to research estate .
  • 43% to look up information about a job.
  • 40% to look up government services or information.
  • 30% to take a class or get educational content.
  • 18% to submit a job application. (Pew, 2015)

So how does this affect everything else we’re doing while we’re using our mobile phones?  If more of us are multi-tasking in this way while we’re grocery shopping, or on the check-out line at a store, watching TV, or having dinner with our family or friends – does our new smartphone multi-tasking impact these activities or the people involved in them?

New research suggests, yes, it does impact our lives and relationships.  A new study from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business has found that smartphone use can contribute to problems in romantic relationships and cause higher rates of depression in users.

In the study, researchers led two different surveys using 453 U.S. adults to study the effects of what has been called “Phubbing” – partner phone snubbing.  The researchers defined phubbing as the extent to which people use or are distracted by their phones while with their romantic partners (Eckert, 2015).

The study revealed that when partners feel phubbed, it creates conflict and lower levels of relationship satisfaction.  This sets off a chain reaction.  Lower relationship satisfaction leads to lower overall life satisfaction, which in turn leads to higher levels of depression (Eckert, 2015).

Researchers also found that partners with an anxious attachment style that were less secure in their relationships were more bothered by the phubbing than those with a more secure attachment style.  Overall, researchers felt the information can help us understand the impact on the world around us of even momentary distractions from our phones.

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