Smartphones are great, but it’s safe to say we could all benefit from a smartphone break from time to time. Smartphone use has been linked to increased rates of anxiety and depression in teenagers. And a new study shows that for some individuals, too much smartphone use can prevent them from dealing with emotional upsets in a healthy way. 

In a new study entitled, Distress tolerance and mindfulness mediate relations between depression and anxiety sensitivity with problematic smartphone use, researchers surveyed 261 college students over the course of one month.

First the study set out to see how a student’s depression severity and anxiety severity would impact their tolerance for distress as well as their mindfulness. Once researchers identified the students distress tolerance and mindfulness, they predicted their smartphone use for the coming month.

According to study author, Jon D. Elhai, “People with less ability to endure emotional distress, and people who use less mindfulness awareness to regulate emotion, had greater severity of problematic smartphone use.”

Therefore, without the ability to process, cope and work through emotional distress can increase the likelihood of reaching for the smartphone. However, since excessive use of smartphones have already been shown to increase depression and anxiety rates in young adults, this behavior will only keep individuals in a vicious cycle.

The solution? Elhai explained that “The ability to regulate emotion may be an important variable to help offset problematic use of technology.” Therefore, it may be imperative for individuals who struggle with depression and anxiety to develop emotion regulation skills. This can help them cope and process emotions in a healthy way, rather than rely on smartphones.

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