Study Sees Link Between Smartphone Screen Time, Symptoms of Mental Illness

Drug Topics Journal, Drug Topics December 2022, Volume 166, Issue 12

Social support and education may be the solution.

Smartphones can provide easy access to social media and other online platforms, but subjective smartphone screen time may be associated with comorbid mental illness in young adults, according to an abstract presented at APHA.1 Providing social support may mitigate the effect and could be done through interventions monitoring screen usage and incorporating education about screen time into school curriculums.

A recent study examined the relationship between smartphone screen time and comorbid mental illness, as well as the role social support can play. Data were collected between March 2019 and May 2019 through a cross-sectional, web-based survey. Participants were over 18 years, spoke English, and were enrolled in a US college or university. They reported their daily subjective screen time, as well as their screen time for social networking, gaming, and productivity apps.

Symptoms of depression, anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and insomnia were measured. After adjustment for age, gender, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, multinominal logistic regression models assessed the main effects.

Symptoms of 2 or more mental illnesses, but not any single mental illness, were significantly associated with daily subjective screen time, and findings were similar for networking, gaming, and productivity. Social support did significantly moderate these relationships.


“Rather than restricting screen time entirely, providing adequate social support from a young age may be effective at reducing the impact of screen time on mental health,” researchers concluded.


1. Jacob S, Noel J, Rosenthal S. Smartphone screen time and co-morbid mental illness in university students. Presented at: 2022 American Public Health Association Annual Meeting and Expo; November 6-9, 2022; Boston, MA.