A multi-school study in England, to assess problematic smartphone usage and anxiety and depression

Ben Carter, Mollie Payne, Philippa Rees, Sei Yon Sohn, June Brown, Nicola Kalk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Aim
To assess the association between problematic smartphone usage (PSU) and anxiety and depression in adolescents.
Methods
A cross-sectional study in five schools in the UK were included. The primary outcome was moderate anxiety (GAD-7≥10) symptoms and secondary outcomes were moderate depression symptoms (PHQ-9≥10) and insomnia. PSU was assessed using screentime and Smartphone Addiction Scale (SAS-SV). A multilevel logistic regression was fitted and adjusted Odds Ratio (aOR) with 95% confidence intervals (95%CI) reported. A mediation analysis was conducted.
Results
Of the five included schools, 657 adolescents aged 16-18 years were enrolled. The median age was 17.5 years (17-18 [IQR]), and 508 (77.3%) were female. Of these 188 (28.6%) exhibited moderate anxiety and 226 (34.4%) moderate depression symptoms. Almost two thirds (421, 64.1%) have tried to cut down their smartphone use, and 81 (12.5%) wanted help to reduce use.

PSU was associated with increased anxiety (aOR=2.03, 95%CI 1.28-3.23); depression (aOR=2.96, 95%CI 1.80-4.86); and insomnia (aOR=1.64, 95%CI 1.08-2.50). Screentime was not associated with anxiety (β=0.99, 95%CI 0.91-1.08); or depression (β=0.98, 95%CI 0.89-1.07). PSU had a significant direct, indirect and total effect on both anxiety and depression.

Conclusions: PSU was associated with anxiety and depression, independent of screentime. Interventions are needed to reduce PSU.
Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Paediatrica
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 28 May 2024

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