Smartphone use has been known to cause sleep problems and relationship issues in several studies. Now, a research from the University of British Columbia and the University of Virginia found that smartphones could be causing symptoms similar to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

“Less than 10 years ago, Steve Jobs promised that smartphones will change everything,” says lead researcher Kostadin Kushlev, a psychology research scientist at the University of Virginia. “And with the Internet in their pockets, people today are bombarded with notifications – whether from email, text messaging, social media or news apps – anywhere they go. We are seeking to better understand how this constant inflow of notifications influences our minds.”

Apparently, up to 95 percent of smartphone users used their phones during social gatherings, seven in 10 users checked their phones at work and one in 10 users used it during sex. Overall, a smartphone user spends almost two hours on the average in using the phone each day.


Smartphones can cause ADHD-like symptoms. Credit: Pixabay/JESHOOTS

The researchers studied 221 students at the University of British Columbia in an experimental study over a period of two weeks. Initially, the participants were asked to keep their phone notifications alerts on and within reach during the first week and were subsequently asked to turn these off during the second week.

They found that smartphone interruptions can cause inattention and hyperactivity, both of which are signs of ADHD. The students were distracted, unable to focus, and easily got bored while trying to focus.

Moreover, the team also observed that phone notifications caused fidgeting, restlessness, and difficulty in doing quiet tasks or sitting still. The symptoms were present in those who do not even have ADHD and were more common in those who kept their phones on ring or vibrate.

“Our findings suggest neither that smartphones can cause ADHD nor those reducing smartphone notifications can treat ADHD,” asserts Kushlev. “The findings simply suggest that our constant digital stimulation may be contributing to an increasingly problematic deficit of attention in modern society.”

Fortunately, this problem is solvable. The researchers recommend switching their phones on silent mode or keep them out of reach.