*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on EurekAlert.
Young people who are hooked on their smartphones may be at an increased risk for depression and loneliness, according to a new study from the University of Arizona.
A growing body of research has identified a link between smartphone dependency and symptoms of depression and loneliness. However, it's been unclear whether reliance on smartphones precedes those symptoms, or whether the reverse is true: that depressed or lonely people are more likely to become dependent on their phones.
In a study of 346 older adolescents, ages 18-20, researcher Matthew Lapierre and his collaborators found that smartphone dependency predicts higher reports of depressive symptoms and loneliness, rather than the other way around.
"The main takeaway is that smartphone dependency directly predicts later depressive symptoms," said Lapierre, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. "There's an issue where people are entirely too reliant on the device, in terms of feeling anxious if they don't have it accessible, and they're using it to the detriment of their day-to-day life."
In the study, which will be published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, Lapierre and his co-authors focus on smartphone dependency - a person's psychological reliance on the device - rather than on general smartphone use, which can actually provide benefits.
The researchers measured smartphone dependency by asking study participants to use a four-point scale to rate a series of statements, such as "I panic when I cannot use my smartphone."
Participants also answered questions designed to measure loneliness, depressive symptoms and their daily smartphone use. They responded to the questions at the start of the study and again three to four months later.