Can Smartphone Addiction Make You Depressed?

Group of people using smartphonesExcessive use of smartphones and other Internet-connected devices may be linked to depression, according to a study published in Computers in Human Behavior.

Smartphone addiction may be among the most common addictions. A 2015 study of 256 participants found 13% showed signs of smartphone addiction. In that study, the average user spent 3.6 hours per day using a smartphone. A 2011 study found more than half of adults and almost two-thirds of teenagers have used their smartphones while socializing.

The Connection Between Smartphone Addiction and Depression

Researchers gave more than 300 university students questionnaires about their mental health, use of electronic devices, and reasons for using smartphones. Some sample questions include:

  • “Do you think that your academic or work performance has been negatively affected by your cell phone use?”
  • “Do you think that life without the Internet is boring, empty, and sad?”

Students who reported more symptoms of mental health issues such as depression were more likely to exhibit problematic smartphone use. Researchers did not test for a causal connection between the two issues, so it is unclear whether one causes the other.

The correlation between smartphone use and depression was particularly strong among those who said they used their phones to avoid boredom and negative emotions, suggesting people who become addicted to smartphones may already be experiencing emotional concerns.

Cell Phones and Stress Reduction

In a second trial of the same group, researchers explored how smartphones might act as a “security blanket” during stressful situations. Some students were allowed to hold their phones during a researcher-induced stressful situation, but they were not allowed to make calls or otherwise use the phones. Another group of students was not permitted to hold their phones.

Both groups had similar reactions to the stressful experience for its duration. The group of students who retained their cell phones, though, had a reduced initial reaction to the stress. The researchers say these findings suggests cell phones might offer a small “security blanket” effect, especially at the onset of stress.


  1. Osborne, L. (2015, March 5). One in eight people are addicted to their smartphone—and the more we use them, the worse it gets, study claims. Retrieved from
  2. Panova, T., & Lleras, A. (2016). Avoidance or boredom: Negative mental health outcomes associated with use of Information and Communication Technologies depend on users’ motivations. Computers in Human Behavior, 58, 249-258. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2015.12.062
  3. Reina, M. (2016, March 3). Smartphone addiction may make you depressed, study warns. Retrieved from

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  • Leave a Comment
  • Brendan

    March 7th, 2016 at 3:36 PM

    So this is a new phenomenon…
    and one that I find pretty disturbing.
    There are people who can’t disconnect form the internet enough to even enjoy a dinner or a date with someone. That’s pretty serious.

  • preston

    March 8th, 2016 at 10:38 AM

    I wouldn’t say that the blame solely lies with the phone but it is more like the things that we choose to do when we are on that phone
    checking emails
    using apps
    going on websites
    yeah I can see how some of these things will play right into our own insecurities

  • Meg

    March 9th, 2016 at 11:47 AM

    There is no addiction that will ultimately make you feel good. I suspect that with most addictions there will come a fair amount of depression.

  • Tenille

    March 10th, 2016 at 3:26 PM

    I see people everyday who look like they struggle when they have to look away from their phones and have a real conversation face to face. It is like with the advent of these devices many of us have lost the art of successful face to face communication. We would rather be online and on our phones than talking and interacting with the people in our lives.

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