A study published in the Computers in Human Behaviour journal has linked the addiction to a cellphone with anxiety and depression in college students. The study researchers assert their study shows that breaking addictive technology habits may be a new strategy to solve mental health problems like general anxiety and depression.

The University of Illinois researchers gave 300 university students questionnaires that inquired about their mental health, frequency of cellphone and Internet use and their reasons for using gadgets. They were asked: “Do you think that your academic or work performance has been negatively affected by your cellphone use?” and “Do you think that life without the Internet is boring, empty and sad?”

The university’s psychology professor, Alejandro Lleras, explained that self-described Internet and cellphone addicts scored higher on the depression and anxiety scales. The team noted that those who used these technologies out of boredom did not suffer any mental health problems.

University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras found that mobile device addiction is associated with depression and anxiety. Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras found that mobile device addiction is associated with depression and anxiety. Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

They concluded that the reason for using the Internet is crucial to bad mental health outcomes. In another experiment, they found out that simply carrying a cellphone, even without using it, makes the students less stressed than those without their phones.

“Having access to a phone seemed to allow that group to resist or to be less sensitive to the stress manipulation,” claimed Lleras. “This benefit was both small and short-lived, but suggests the phone might serve as a comfort item in stressful or anxiety-inducing situations.”

The researchers said that more studies are needed to understand the connection between the motivation of using these technologies and mental health. Nevertheless, this study demonstrated that worrying about the negative effects of new technology is unfounded.

“We shouldn’t be scared of people connecting online or talking on their phones,” Lleras added. “The interaction with the device is not going to make you depressed if you are just using it when you are bored.”