New study explores the ‘sweet spot’ of smartphone use

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Is it better to reduce or eliminate smartphones to increase wellbeing and lifestyle? Researchers sought to answer this question and find the sweet spot of mobile use.

An experimental intervention study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, was conducted by researchers at Ruhr-University Bochum, in Bochum, Germany. More than 600 participants were engaged for this study and divided into three groups. The first experimental group gave up their smartphones completely for a week, the second experimental group reduced their daily use by one hour, while the control group used the smartphone in the same way as before. Variables of smartphone use including time, intensity, problematic tendencies were assessed. In addition, researchers evaluated life satisfaction, depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, physical activity, and smoking behavior via online surveys at four measurement time points including baseline, postintervention, and one and four months after postintervention.

The results of the study found both interventions reduced smartphone use intensity, problematic use tendencies, and depressive and anxiety symptoms. In both intervention groups, the researchers found life satisfaction and physical activity increased. Most effects were stronger and remained more stable over four months in the reduction group than in the abstinence group. Moreover, in the reduction group only, the number of daily smoked cigarettes by participants decreased.

Researchers found less time spent on the smartphone leads to more wellbeing and a healthier lifestyle yet said a complete smartphone abstinence is not necessary. Programs that focus on the increase of wellbeing and a healthier lifestyle could benefit from the integration of controlled reduction of smartphone use.