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Age of First Smartphone/Tablet and Mental Wellbeing Outcomes

Viernes 19 de mayo de 2023, por AB

There is now a well-documented trend of a progressive global decline in the mental wellbeing of each younger generation that began sometime between the years of 2010 and 2014. One prominent global change that has tracked this trend has been the advent of the smartphone which provides 24/7 access to the Internet and has changed the cognitive and social habits of users. Today’s 18-24-year-olds (those born after 1998 and part of Generation Z (GenZ)) are the first generation who went through adolescence with this technology. Here we look at their mental wellbeing in relation to the age at which they first got their own smartphone or tablet to determine the cumulative impact of growing up with smartphones, a term we use going forward to mean both phones and tablets. Are those young adults who got their first smartphone at age 6 doing worse than those who didn"t get one until age 13 or 18? This study uses global data from 27,969 18"“24-year-olds obtained between January and April 2023 through the Global Mind Project (formerly known as the Mental Health Million Project). The Global Mind Project is an ongoing survey of global mental wellbeing along with various lifestyle and life experience factors. It acquires data using an assessment that spans 47 elements covering a wide range of symptoms and mental capabilities on a life impact scale that are combined to provide an aggregate score — the Mental Health Quotient or — MHQ — as well as dimensional scores. We compared these scores and ratings of individual elements to the reported age of first smartphone or tablet ownership among 18-24-year-olds. Key findings are as follows: "¢ Mental wellbeing consistently improved with older age of first ownership of a smartphone or tablet, with a steeper change in females compared to males. The percentage of females experiencing mental health challenges decreased from 74% for those who received their first smartphone at age 6, to 46% for those who received it at age 18. For males, the percentage declined from 42% at age 6 to 36% at age 18.
"¢ Social Self, an aggregate measure of how we view ourselves and relate to others, and one of six dimensions of mental function measured, improved most dramatically with older age of first smartphone ownership in both females and males. For females, other dimensions such as Mood & Outlook and Adaptability & Resilience also improved steeply with age of smartphone acquisition.
"¢ Problems with suicidal thoughts, feelings of aggression towards others, a sense of being detached from reality and hallucinations declined most steeply and significantly with older age of first smartphone ownership for females, and for males as well, but to a lesser degree.
"¢ The relationship between mental wellbeing at age 18-24 and age of first smartphone acquisition remained significant, even in those with no traumatic or adverse childhood experience.

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