Digital detox may not improve your wellbeing, new study shows

In a new study, researchers found a 24-hour period of abstinence from a smartphone induces cravings, but mood and anxiety remain stable.

The research was conducted by a team from Loughborough University.

The team asked participants to place their phone in a secure sealed bag for 24 hours with a request not to open it.

In a small sample of smartphone users, psychologists measured three variables -mood, anxiety, and craving- on four occasions, which included a 24-hour period of smartphone abstinence.

The team found only craving was affected following this brief period of abstinence, but it had no impact on mood and anxiety.

The craving results indicate that, as expected, people enjoy using their smartphones and miss them when they are unavailable.

However, the results show that it may be inappropriate to consider smartphones in the same framework as behavioral addictions as there is little evidence that they meet important behavioral addiction criteria.

The growing popularity of ‘digital detoxes’ has been encouraged by claims that removing oneself from technology can help reduce stress and improve well-being.

However, this study suggests that a short-term digital detox from the smartphone is unlikely to provide any health benefits.

The lead author of the study is Dr. Thom Wilcockson of Loughborough University.

The study is published in Addictive Behaviours.

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