How much less smartphone use per day is good for us.

This is an interesting new study by Dr. Julia Brailovskaia and her team, although some limitations are obvious. The researchers compared 3 groups to know how much less smartphone use per day is good for us. They compared:

  • the effect of complete smartphone abstinence versus
  • a reduction in time spent daily looking at the screen and versus
  • continued use without any changes.

They recruited 619 people for their study and divided them randomly into three groups. 200 people put their smartphones completely aside for a week. 226 reduced the amount of time they used the device by one hour a day. 193 people didn’t change anything in their behaviour.

And the results as summarized in the press release:

The one-week intervention changed the participants’ usage habits in the long term: even four months after the end of the experiment, the members of the abstinence group used their smartphone on average 38 minutes less per day than before. The group who had spent one hour less per day with the smartphone during the experiment used it as much as 45 minutes less per day after four months than before. At the same time, life satisfaction and time spent being physically active increased. Symptoms of depression and anxiety as well as nicotine consumption decreased. “It’s not necessary to completely give up the smartphone to feel better,” concludes Brailovskaia. “There may be an optimal daily usage time.”

Abstract of the study:

The present experimental study compared the impact of a total abstinence from smartphone use and of a reduction of daily smartphone use by 1 hr on well-being and healthy lifestyle. Participants (Ntotal = 619) were smartphone users in Germany. The first experimental group (N = 200) waived smartphone use for 7 days, the second experimental group (N = 226) reduced its daily use by 1 hr, and the control group (N = 193) used smartphone as usual. Variables of smartphone use (time, intensity, problematic tendencies), life satisfaction, depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, physical activity, and smoking behavior were assessed via online surveys at four measurement time points (baseline; postintervention; 1 and 4 months after postintervention). Both interventions reduced smartphone use intensity, problematic use tendencies, depressive, and anxiety symptoms. In both groups, life satisfaction and physical activity increased. Most effects were stronger and remained more stable over 4 months in the reduction group than in the abstinence group. Moreover, in the reduction group only, the number of daily smoked cigarettes decreased. Thus, less time spent on the smartphone leads to more well-being and a healthier lifestyle; a complete smartphone abstinence is not necessary. Programs that focus on the increase of well-being and a healthier lifestyle could benefit from the integration of controlled reduction of smartphone use. A potential “sweet spot” of smartphone use is discussed.

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