Daily long-time smartphone use strongly affect mental health in adolescents

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A new study involving over 50,000 Korean adolescents reveals a concerning link between extensive smartphone use and various health issues.

Researchers Jin-Hwa Moon and Jong Ho Cha from Hanyang University Medical Center, Korea, have presented their findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on December 6, 2023.

In recent years, there’s been a noticeable increase in smartphone usage among adolescents.

Previous studies have suggested a connection between this rise and various health problems, including psychiatric disorders, sleep disturbances, eye strain, and musculoskeletal issues.

Interestingly, some evidence indicates that a certain amount of daily internet use might be beneficial for adolescents’ physical and mental health.

Moon, Cha, and their team analyzed data from the Korea Youth Risk Behavior Web-based Survey collected in 2017 and 2020 to explore this complex relationship further.

This survey provided detailed information about the daily smartphone usage of more than 50,000 teenagers and various health indicators.

The researchers used a technique called propensity score matching in their statistical analysis. This method helps to consider other factors that might influence health outcomes, like age, gender, and socioeconomic status.

Their analysis revealed that by 2020, 85.7% of the adolescents surveyed were using smartphones for over two hours a day, a significant jump from 64.3% in 2017.

More alarmingly, they found that teenagers who used their smartphones for more than four hours daily experienced higher rates of stress, suicidal thoughts, and substance use compared to those who used their phones less.

On the flip side, using a smartphone for one to two hours daily seemed less problematic than not using a smartphone.

It’s important to note that this study does not establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship between smartphone use and adverse health outcomes.

However, the findings provide valuable insights that could guide the creation of usage recommendations for adolescents, particularly as daily use increases.

The researchers conclude by highlighting the significant impact that over four hours of daily smart device usage can have on the health of adolescents.

This study underscores the need for a balanced approach to smartphone use among young people, recognizing this ubiquitous technology’s potential risks and benefits.

The research findings can be found in PLOS ONE.

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