Nighttime smartphone use and changes in mental health and wellbeing among young adults: a longitudinal study based on high-resolution tracking data

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Frequent nighttime smartphone use can disturb healthy sleep patterns and may adversely affect mental health and wellbeing. This study aims at investigating whether nighttime smartphone use increases the risk of poor mental health, i.e. loneliness, depressive symptoms, perceived stress, and low life satisfaction among young adults. High-dimensional tracking data from the Copenhagen Network Study was used to objectively measure nighttime smartphone activity. We recorded more than 250,000 smartphone activities during self-reported sleep periods among 815 young adults (university students, mean age: 21.6 years, males: 77%) over 16 weekdays period. Mental health was measured at baseline using validated measures, and again at follow-up four months later. Associations between nighttime smartphone use and mental health were evaluated at baseline and at follow-up using multiple linear regression adjusting for potential confounding. Nighttime smartphone use was associated with a slightly higher level of perceived stress and depressive symptoms at baseline. For example, participants having 1-3 nights with smartphone use (out of 16 observed nights) had on average a 0.25 higher score (95%CI:0.08;0.41) on the Perceived stress scale ranging from 0 to 10. These differences were small and could not be replicated at follow-up. Contrary to the prevailing hypothesis, nighttime smartphone use is not strongly related to poor mental health, potentially because smartphone use is also a social phenomenon with associated benefits for mental health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8013
JournalScientific Reports
Volume12
Issue number1
Number of pages9
ISSN2045-2322
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022. The Author(s).

    Research areas

  • Adult, Humans, Loneliness, Longitudinal Studies, Male, Mental Health, Sleep, Smartphone, Young Adult

ID: 307435915