Stories

Study: Smartphone use spikes anxiety, depression in 25% of youth

In this illustration, a phone screen is shown to be blurred while someone holds it
Illustration: Axios Visuals/Sarah Grillo

Roughly 25% of youths experience depression, anxiety, poor sleep and high stress due to "problematic smartphone use," according to new research published Friday in BMC Psychiatry.

Why it matters: The report says that how young people use smartphones — in ways that mimic behavioral addiction — could be more harmful for mental health than the phones themselves.

What they found: 17 to 19 year olds are the most frequent sufferers of problematic smartphone use, as found by over a dozen studies cited in the report, and those users said that social networking was the most important part of using a smartphone.

  • Loneliness and low self-esteem were also found to be associated with addictive or problematic smartphone use.
  • Both risk-taking and risk avoidant characteristics were associated with poor smartphone use — like low self-control, emotional instability, impulsivity, and perfectionism.

Methodology: The final report used 41 studies out of the 924 it analyzed, which included over 40,000 children and young people — an age range of those with a mean population of no greater than 25. Researchers used studies from 2011 to 2017 and no language restrictions were applied.

Go deeper: The growing war on tech addiction