“Smartphone addiction” fuelling mental health crisis, researchers say

“Smartphone addiction” among young people is fuelling a mental health crisis, a major new study has revealed.

The finding forms part of new research published by King’s College London (KCL).

According to the report, one in four children and young people use their smartphones in a way that is “consistent with a behavioural addiction”, with an average of 23 per cent exhibiting “problematic smartphone usage”.

The condition, also known as PSU, is defined as “any behaviour linked to smartphones that has the features of an addiction”. This could include feelings of panic or sadness when the mobile phone is unavailable or using the phone to the detriment of other social or academic activities.

The researchers also investigated links between PSU and mental health, finding a “consistent association” between high levels of mobile phone usage and poor mental wellbeing.

Individuals with PSU were much more likely to report symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress and poor sleep, as well as underperform at school, the research showed.

Commenting on the findings, study author Samantha Sohn said: “Behavioural addictions can have serious consequences on mental health and day-to-day functioning, so there is a need for further investigation into problematic smartphone usage in the UK.”

Co-author Dr Ben Carter added: “There is currently a lot of public discourse around the possible negative effects of smartphone use, and previous research has tended to only examine the quantity and frequency of time spent on any technology or screen.

“Our review assesses the effects not just of heavy use, but of dysfunctional smartphone use, and by looking at an ‘addicted’ pattern of behaviour towards smartphones we have established correlations between this type of dysfunctional behaviour and poorer mental health outcomes”

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