Overuse of Technology Linked to Changes in Teens Mental Health

Swedish researchers have found that young people who are heavy users of cell phones and computers are at a much higher risk of sleeping problems, stress disorders and other mental health issues.  The study was conducted by the Sahlgrenska Academy of the University of Gothenburg and included a sample size of 4,100 individuals between 20-24 years old.  Pointing out the dangers of having an “always on” society that is heavily reliant on technology, and especially mobile devices, doctoral student and head researcher Sara Thomee reported in the team’s findings that teens who find  the constant accessibility that comes with using mobile phones to be stressful are most likely to report symptoms of increased stress.

The study results pointed out the need to educate young users about the dangers of overusing technology, which can become even more of a risk when young people use computers and mobile devices late at night before they go to bed.  Thomee said, “Regularly using a computer late at night is associated not only with sleep disorders, but also with stress and depressive symptoms in both men and women.”

The University of Gothenburg’s research suggests that public health advice on the topic is an important step in preventing depression, stress and increased risk of sleeping disorders.  In terms of educating young people, Thomee offers advice that is true for all computer users:  take breaks, take enough time to recover after intensive use and put limits on your availability.  By taking time for themselves and “unplugging” from the world for a period of time each day, teens can avoid the potentially damaging mental health problems associated with the overuse of technology.  This is especially important for heavy cell phone users.

The Swedish researchers conducted a series of four studies on the topic of technology use and teens mental health, and looked at both the quantitative and qualitative effects.  Study subjects were contacted a year later to evaluate their current use and their mental health.  Thomee will be presenting her findings in her upcoming thesis at the University of Gothenburg later this year.

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