Smartphone use linked to unhappiness, anxiety and lower grades

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Most of us can't get through the day without our mobile phone

Whether we use them only for calling or texting friends or for their myriad uses - banking, entertainment, fitness, music - mobile phones are seemingly as essential to our day as breakfast. But a recent study published in Computers in Human Behavior suggests that while we view them as must-have items of convenience, frequent use of smartphones by college students is tied to poorer academic performance, anxiety and unhappiness.

Researchers from the College of Education, Health and Human Services at Kent State University in Ohio, recently surveyed more than 500 college students about their mobile phone use. The results were compared to the participants’ academic grades and clinical test results on anxiety and life satisfaction or happiness.

The results showed those who used their mobile phones the most had the lowest grade point averages (GPAs) and the highest anxiety levels. In other words, “[mobile] phone use was negatively related to GPA and positively related to anxiety,” according to a press release from Kent University. Furthermore, a high GPA was positively related to happiness while anxiety was related to lower reported happiness.

The researchers said, “For the population studied, high frequency [mobile] phone users tended to have lower GPA, higher anxiety, and lower satisfaction with life (happiness) relative to their peers who use the cell phone less often.” They called the relationships statistically “highly significant.”

Furthermore, earlier this year researchers found a negative relationship between cell phone use and cardio-respiratory fitness, showing that those who used their phone the most had lower fitness levels.

While not disparaging the usefulness of the smartphones, which allow students to stay in touch with family and friends and easily browse the Internet, the researchers suggest there is merit in considering what potential harms they may pose.

Although the exact relationship and reasoning between high mobile phone use and lower grades is still uncertain, this study and the gathering weight of similar evidence has lead researchers to suggest students to review how they are using their smartphones, and think about whether it is interfering with their performance, mental and physical health, overall well-being and happiness.

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