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Excessive smartphone use increases loneliness, study warns

Researchers examining technology use among college students have found a number of worrying trends among those who rely too much on their devices ¿ and warn that the behavior is similar to any other type of substance abuse.  Stock image

Smartphone addiction may have effects on the brain similar to some of those seen in opioid addiction, according to a new study.

Researchers examining technology use among college students have found a number of troubling trends among those who rely too much on their devices — and warn that the behavior is similar to any other type of substance abuse.

In addition to the neurological effects, researchers have found that people who are addicted to their phones tend to feel more isolated, lonely, depressed and anxious than their peers.

Researchers examining technology use among college students have found a number of worrying trends among those who rely too much on their devices ¿ and warn that the behavior is similar to any other type of substance abuse.  Stock image

Researchers examining technology use among college students have found a number of troubling trends among those who rely too much on their devices — and warn that the behavior is similar to any other type of substance abuse. Stock image

“Behavioral addiction to smartphone use begins to create neurological connections in the brain in a similar way to how opioid addiction is experienced by people taking Oxycontin for pain relief—gradually,” says Erik Peper, professor of health education at San Francisco State University.

Researchers surveyed 135 university students and found a range of negative social impacts among those who reported higher phone use.

Experts say that loneliness can be related to the absence of face-to-face contact and a lack of visible body language.

And they say students who use their phones more are constantly multitasking.

This, Peper says, gives the mind little time to relax and devotes less effort to each individual task, as if one were concentrating on one thing at a time.

A researcher says smartphones trigger pathways in the brain that once alerted people to danger – but the tech industry has exploited this to boost profits.

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“More eyeballs, more clicks, more money,” Peper said.

“But now we’re hijacked by the same mechanisms that once protected us and allowed us to survive—for the most trivial information.

Researchers surveyed 135 university students and found a range of negative social impacts among those who reported higher phone use.  Stock image

Researchers surveyed 135 university students and found a range of negative social impacts among those who reported higher phone use. Stock image

This isn’t the first study to suggest that smartphone addiction can mimic substance addiction in some ways.

However, in a similar study published earlier this year, researchers say there is another side to the argument.

While excessive smartphone use may seem isolated, a team at McGill University says our addiction to technology likely stems from a desire to connect with other people.

ARE YOU ONE OF THE ALMOST 50% OF HANDSET DEPENDENT SMARTPHONE USERS?

Disturbing research published in December 2017 revealed that we reach for our smartphones around 4,000 times a year for no apparent reason.

We unlock our phone 28 times every day – and more than a third of the time it’s compulsive and unnecessary.

The apps we crave the most are Facebook, followed by WhatsApp, Gmail and Instagram, the survey found.

Experts at Malta-based online casino Casumo.com looked at 2,000 UK smartphone users to see if checking their devices was out of habit or necessity.

The average American clicks, taps, or swipes on their smartphone screen more than 2,600 times a day, with some reaching an astounding 5,400 times.

The average American clicks, taps, or swipes on their smartphone screen more than 2,600 times a day, with some reaching an astounding 5,400 times.

They found that more than 40 percent of the 10,000 times users check their smartphones each year are “compulsive.”

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The top ten percent of users check their phone more than 60 times a day.

More than one in three people think they are addicted to checking their phone with the average user spending nearly an hour on their phone every day.

The survey also found that Google Maps is considered the most useful app, while WhatsApp and Gmail come second and third.

Google Chrome is fourth and Facebook is fifth.

Based on this, the researchers in the McGill study argue that we may not be addicted to smartphones after all — instead, we are addicted to social interactions.

According to the researchers, these devices tap into our basic needs as a uniquely social species.

People tend to seek meaning and a sense of identity through their interactions with others.

Addiction to smartphones and other devices can thus be considered hypersocial rather than antisocial, the researchers said.

But the pace and extent at which they are used could cause the brain’s reward system to “overdrive”, they warn.

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