Adults who spend too much time in front of screens are more likely to experience psychological distress and symptoms associated with borderline personality disorder, according to new research published in the Annals of Human and Social Sciences.
In a world where technology is ubiquitous, it’s no surprise that our screen time has skyrocketed. From binge-watching TV shows to scrolling through social media, our digital engagement has reached unprecedented levels. But, what are the potential downsides of this screen addiction?
This question motivated researcher to conduct a comprehensive study. While prior research had touched on the effects of excessive screen time, it mainly focused on children and adolescents. The gap in understanding the impact on adults led to this investigation. The researcher aimed to explore how spending hours glued to screens might affect the mental well-being of adults.
“The growing interest and use of screen-based technologies throughout the world made me think about its pros and cons. As I read previously published articles related to screen-time addiction, I realized that very little importance has been given to this topic,” said study author Adeena Ahmed, a clinical psychologist at Lifeline Rehabilitation Center Islamabad who recently graduated from Riphah International University.
“Even the studies that has uncovered some findings related to the adverse effects of screen time are mainly focused on kids and not adults. Everyone knows about negative impacts of screens and how a behavioral addiction can have the same consequences as substance addiction, but we still have very little empirical evidence that support this debate. The above mentioned scenarios intrigued my interest in this topic.”
To better understand these issues, Ahmed conducted a study involving 150 adults from Rawalpindi and Islamabad. The participants were selected carefully, ensuring they represented a cross-section of the population.
The participants completed The Internet Addiction Test, a questionnaire consisting of 20 statements designed to assess an individual’s level of internet addiction. The questionnaire covers various aspects of internet addiction, including spending more time online than intended, neglecting responsibilities, preferring online interactions over real-life ones, and experiencing negative emotions when offline.
They also filled out questionnaires that assessed symptoms related to borderline personality disorder and psychological distress.
Ahmed found a significant relationship between screen time addiction and both borderline personality disorder symptoms and psychological distress. In simpler terms, individuals who spent excessive amounts of time in front of screens were more likely to exhibit signs associated with borderline personality disorder, such as mood swings and difficulty managing emotions. Additionally, they were also more prone to experiencing psychological distress, which includes symptoms of anxiety and depression.
“We all know that we live in a world in which use of screen-based technologies is something we cannot avoid,” Ahmed told PsyPost.” The findings of this study can help the average person to at least keep a check on their screen time and try to balance it. Excess of anything can lead to complications. Any behavior or any substance that we use in excess can lead to addiction and can further can trigger psychological disorders as well.”
Perhaps most surprising was the gender difference observed in screen time addiction. The study found that men tended to be more addicted to screens than women, with men scoring significantly higher on measures of screen time addiction. “I was expecting the same ratio of screen addictive behaviors in both genders,” Ahmed said.
While this study provides crucial insights into the relationship between screen time and mental health, it’s essential to acknowledge its limitations. The study focused on a specific geographical region, and its findings may not be universally applicable. Additionally, it’s worth noting that the research does not imply causation but rather highlights a significant correlation.
“I personally suggest that there should be more studies to find out the relationship between screen addiction and other mental health disorders (specially mood and eating disorders),” Ahmed said.