Looking into screen time and depression
There is no denying it that digital screens offer us so many benefits today; actually, we can’t do without them. With the digital revolution, we all are spending so much of our time staring at screens, more so than ever before. We have immediate access to our friends and family throughout the world and instant information is available at our fingertips.
The digital revolution has changed the world and people. Some of us are so addicted to our screens; we are suffering from health problems! The American Optometric Association (AOA) says that the average American worker is spending at least 7 hours a day staring into a computer either at the office or at home. Some people will admit to spending as much as 11 hours a day looking at some kind of screen.
We are more depressed than ever before
Look for yourself when you are away from home – check out those around you in public spaces, on trains, planes, restaurants. It is almost guaranteed that you will see at least one person engrossed on their phone–probably much more than one. The negative effects, although much of the focus is on the young, affect people of all ages.
Healthy young people of today, the 20 to 40 years old group are going to their doctor’s complaining of chronic insomnia, short-term memory loss, brain fog, vision problems and headaches. Common Sense Media reports that kids from ages 8-12 are spending around 6 hours a day interacting with other kids and the media. This amount of screen time has reportedly adverse effects on the overall health and well-being of youth.
It is pretty clear that we are spending a lot of time on screens and experts aren’t providing definite answers when it comes to how much screen time is too much. Addiction to technology is real and it is not limited just to the USA. The World Health Organization recently included ‘gaming disorder’ in its International Classification of Diseases – 11th edition. They are requesting and encouraging health professionals to pay attention to the fact that massive amounts of people are now suffering from a disease which they named as such.
Our Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?
Yes Have they? That’s the title of an article by psychology professor Jean Twenge. She comes with loads of sociological data, arguing convincingly, that the recent spike in loneliness, misery, and lack of independence among teens is actually due to them trading dates, parties, and driver’s licenses for Snapchatting, Facebooking, Instagramming. She says there are fewer car accidents and teen pregnancy rates because of this reason. So, there are some benefits. Seriously though, the huge spikes in the trend data do coincide kind of freakishly with the onset of the first iPhone.
When it comes to the preschoolers, it was found that these big users of screens were more likely, in fact twice as likely, to lose their temper often – that 46% of them would not be able to calm down when they got excited.
When it comes to technology, it’s natural that we worry about how it is going to affect our children’s health and our own as well. Children’s brains are young and still developing and we can’t be sure how this rapidly changing world will impact on them. Unfortunately, too, it’s a problem with adults, as well. Yes, sure, the adult brain isn’t developing at same remarkable pace that a child’s brain does, but nevertheless, we as adults are hugely affected by technology.
Actually, there is increasing evidence which shows that adult brains are a lot more adaptable than we give them credit for. This is due to a phenomenon called neuroplasticity. Heard of that before? It is how our brains constantly change in response to our smartphone use. It’s a constant process of weakening and strengthening of the nerve cell connections in the brain.
The habits that we take on every day could have a much deeper impact on us than we might have realized, and that includes our screen time. Most of us love to watch television and there is nothing wrong with that. We also enjoy our share of texting on our phones; we enjoy playing games on the computer whilst we are passing time for instance. But have you ever considered the time that you spend enjoying these activities? Too much screen time for adults could also be contributing to the rise of depression today.
A recent study published in Preventive Medicine reports on a “significant association between computer use and television watching associated with moderate or severe levels of depression”. In fact, the chances of developing depression were highest for those adults who watched television or played computer games for more than six hours per day.
You can cancel out these risks if you are willing to change your habits
For instance, instead of your regular video games, you could institute some board game nights with the family, and instead of watching TV during dinnertime, you could keep the television off while you and the family are seated at the table. Those are already good ways of lessening your chances of developing depression because you will be strengthening your relationships.
Too much screen can make you less healthy which are precursors to depression
We all know how good exercises are for our health. That’s no secret – we know that exercises have positive impacts on our health. A sedentary lifestyle like sitting in front of the computer or television puts you at greater risks of developing diseases like metabolic diseases and diabetes.
Rather than being in front of the screens all the time, how about going outside? Hiking, walking, riding, just a walk around the neighborhood are great ways to get your body moving, reducing the risk of illness. If you have kids, the above activities are also great for the children to enjoy with you, spending quality time together.
Sometimes at the end of the day, there is often that ‘urge’, that temptation to check your phone one last time, and particularly if we are waiting to hear from somebody! And you don’t even think of the harm that it can be causing, After all, you’re having fun reading emails and then there’s still Facebook to check out.
That story you were following on Facebook? Of course, you want to find out what other people are commenting – surely it’s no big deal? But thing is, it can be. Studies show that the blue light from your phone’s screen can trick your brain into believing that it is still daylight. That, in turn, affects the hormones that regulate sleep, making it hard for you to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Whether it’s your tablet, your computer, your smartphone, watching television – any electronic device being used late at night can contribute towards depression. That’s what James Phelps says; MD and psychiatrist with Samaritan Health Services in Corvallis, Oregon. He is also the founder of PsychEducation.org. All screens emit a blue light, as mentioned above, and this interferes with the body’s natural circadian rhythms, which disrupts sleep.
When you play around with electronics late at night, you are affecting your sleep cycle and for many people, sleep disturbances can affect the mood, causing and exacerbating depression and anxiety. If you really want to prevent screen time from wrecking your sleep, you need to give yourself a break before you go to bed, searching for around 2 hours of natural darkness before you knock off to sleep, he says.
If you have a condition such as bipolar disorder, you need to be especially conscious of your screen time. In fact, when people with bipolar disorder don’t get enough sleep, they are more prone to have moods, Phelps, who is also an expert in bipolar disorder says that people with bipolar disease start to have cycles of manic phases as well as depressed phases. These days, people with bipolar have to be taught to have regular sleeping hours which is so clearly effective treatment for bipolar disorder.
OK, not everyone can rid themselves of screens before bedtime, but if you have to use them before bed time, it is suggested that you use special glasses with amber-colored lenses. These glasses have the ability to block that blue light, responsible for decreasing the production of melatonin which is a hormone produced by your body and which is associated with falling asleep and staying asleep.
Dr. Phelps says, that unfortunately, these glasses only seem to help around 50% of people whilst others, need to consider blocking the blue light on their devices by using apps such as ‘Night Filter’. You also get software known as ‘f.lux’ or ‘Twilight’.
If you are a person who knows that when you mess with your sleep, you mess with your moods, you need to look for ways to manipulate your sleep without necessarily doing away with your electronic devices entirely. Of course, doing away with them would really be your smartest choice in terms of health, Dr. Phelps says. If you are worried about your mood, you need to look for ways of putting your screen time on a ‘diet’ and reigning in the blues. You might need to change your habits before you go to bed, such as reading a book and not your phone.
Most of us who spend a lot of time on our tablets and smartphones and other electronic devices think it is just a normal part of our daily life. You might not even believe this, but too much screen use can affect your emotional well-being, even being associated with more anxiety and depression. That info is not magically pulled out from thin air though, it comes from many experts, one such is Brian Primack, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health, from the University of Pittsburgh.
He says that the use of social media is the main culprit for stress and anxiety. Why? Because it kind of messes up with our perception of reality. His research covers young adults, particularly those aged from 19-32. This age group carefully wants to demonstrate to their friends only the positive stuff that happens to them, making others in that age group feel left out and inadequate.
The total amount of time spent on social media and the number of times you are constantly checking your social media accounts definitely has associations with anxiety and depression. The more social media platforms, for example, you have an account with, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Snapchat, to name a few, the greater the chances are for anxiety and depression and other negative results.
Just 2 hours of time on social media on just one or two platforms is one thing, but moving around on 8 or so can make a person feel restless and anxious, like being at high school and trying to be friends with 8 different groups of friends instead of just one or two.
Dr. Primack found that people who use social media a lot are the ones who generally feel more socially isolated. When people become socially isolated, they become more depressed; unable to address their problems. He says that being online a lot holds people away from keeping and maintaining more valuable, supportive interpersonal relationships.
Different Ways Your Health is affected by Spending Too Much Time in Front of a Screen
Parents need to monitor their kids
The kids of today are spending an average of 5-7 hours a day using their screens for entertainment – this has increased 2½ hours a day from just 10 years ago. Surveys prove that they are facing more depression and anxiety than previous generations; there’s no denying that. Of course, there are a lot of contributing factors for this, but a major one is screen time. That’s what medical director of FOCUS Adolescent Mood Disorders program in Oconomowoc, Peggy Scallon, says. She asks what these kids are not doing when they are on their screens and what experiences they miss when they are on their screens.
Being distracted by the screens means less time for physical activities, family interactions, homework and face-to-face time with peers. Without these necessary interactions, kids are growing up without having the skills to cope and this creates an unhealthy environment for mental wellbeing.
What about online content? Teens are growing up today viewing beautiful airbrushed models with exquisite faces and bodies which they can’t really ascribe to. Their friends are participating in certain fun things on social media without them, and they realize or perceive that their life seems boring and unglamorous in comparison. Bullying can come in here too; another issue which has changed a lot since bygone days.
Around 92% of kids today are growing up playing video games, to the detriment of other activities, but it’s also because they are so compelling for the kids. This way of life is a precursor to depression, anxiety, family conflict, and other mental disorders. Ouch!
Get clarity on your life and your values
There is hope; you can ‘cure’ yourself of too much screen time making you feel anxious and depressed. There is still time to mindfully think about what you value most in your life. What is it that you want your life to be all about? Good quality relationships? Healthy mind, body, and soul?
Consider regularly whether all that screen usage is moving you towards those values or leading you away from them. If you are fully aware that your screen usage is moving you towards unwanted friendships, unwanted health problems that include anxiety and depression, it is time for you to hit the ‘reset’ button. You can get back on track!
Think about this – that none of the best moments of your life are going to take place looking at your screen.