Mental Health and Technology: The Surprising Pros and Cons of Smartphones on Your Well-Being

This generation has seen a sharp and alarming spike in mental health problems. People have been quick to blame the prevalence of smartphones and social media for this, and it’s not surprising why. The amount of young children who own a smartphone is increasing, and every day, we hear that excessive technology use is responsible for the rise in depression, anxiety, loneliness, and addiction.

New research has come out debunking any link between excessive technology use and feelings of depression or loneliness in adolescents. While studies in the past have shown otherwise, people have counteracted that argument by attributing rising mental health problems to other issues such as poor sleep and exercise.

It may not be clear what is causing such a disturbing increase in mental health problems, and smartphone use may indeed be just one contributing factor. What’s for certain, though, is that these sleek devices present both benefits and challenges when it comes to your mental well-being. Here are just some to consider.

The cons of smartphones on mental well-being

Among adults, a study has found that there is a positive correlation between smartphone use and depression, a mental health disorder that is experienced by 300 million people worldwide. Moreover, the same study explains that overuse of technology negatively impacts an individual’s thoughts, feelings, behavior, and sense of well-being and is a potential risk factor for loneliness and sleep disturbances.

Smartphone use has been associated with anxiety as teenagers feel pressure to maintain a social media persona, keep their accounts regularly updated, and stay up to date with the latest digital trends. With users constantly posting highlights of their lives on social media, feelings of comparison, low self-esteem, and jealousy are additionally heightened among peers.

Negative online experiences such as cyberbullying can lead to feelings of low self-esteem and have the potential to spill over in real-life, disrupting and causing harm in relationships. An inability to manage conflict and the lack of real-life social skills may be a couple of reasons why the youth of today are feeling more lonely and isolated than any other generation.

Such excessive use of smartphones and other forms of technology, such as laptops, iPads, and smartwatches, means that users often feel anxiety and fear when they are without it. Paradoxically, when they are around it, the anxiousness is still there because of the bombardment of notifications that come in at all hours of the day.

The pros of smartphones on mental well-being

One of the biggest advantages of having a smartphone is the 24/7 accessibility to information. Although they may feel lonelier than any other generation, research has found that young people are more educated and less hedonistic than any other generation before them. Plenty of youths spend time reading the news, searching for information, and educating themselves on issues that they care about. They are more aware and mentally equipped, which leads to a sense of empowerment and self-efficacy.

Many companies are making good use of phone apps by creating services aimed at increasing mindfulness, meditation, and positive health and well-being. More people can de-stress, unwind, and tap into their inner calm on the go, all thanks to their smartphones. This has also meant greater access to online counseling via email, texts, or video calls, people are now able to connect with a licensed therapist whenever they need to and wherever they are in the world.

Smartphones have paved the way to greater communication with the outside world that was simply unimaginable even a decade ago. People are encouraged to create online communities and a sense of camaraderie with others who share the same passions and interests as they do. On top of that, they can receive invaluable support and encouragement they would not otherwise find in their limited social circles.

The verdict

Smartphones aren’t entirely good or entirely bad; it can be both. When used mindfully, it can be an incredibly powerful tool to stay connected, informed, and mindful. When used excessively, it can heighten feelings of depression, anxiety, and loneliness. This is all dependent on how a smartphone is used, so let’s acknowledge and embrace it for what it is—a device that is only powerful because of its user: you.

Marie Miguel Biography

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.