Time to Unplug? The Connection Between Screen Time & Mental Health

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Time to Unplug? The Connection Between Screen Time & Mental Health

With work or homework requiring a computer, our favorite shows and movies available after a few clicks on a streaming service, and a smart phone at an arm’s length away at all times, humans now spend a substantial part of their life with their eyes glued to a screen of some kind.  While wasting the day away scrolling through your phone or spending hours binging your favorite television show may seem harmless, these activities may be doing more harm than good.

Does Screen Time Affect Mental Health?

It appears that more and more young adults and teenagers are in need of mental health treatment today than in the past, and many researchers are asking why. With our daily time spent on devices rising, many people are citing the impact of screen time on mental health. There is an ongoing debate, and while research suggests that there is a connection between screen time and mental health, it can be conflicting.

Overall, most of the research appears to suggest that screen time is associated with poorer mental health. One study found that heavy screen users ages 14 to 17 were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety in the last 12 months than their peers who had little screen time.1 In extreme cases, screen time may turn into internet addiction, which is correlated with higher rates of ADHD, depression, social phobia.2

While a lot of researchers tend to agree that screen time does more harm than good, it isn’t just about the amount of time spent staring at a screen. The screen time mental health impact is largely dependent on what you are looking at as well as how you are engaging with the screen. For example, research shows that, often, social media and depression are connected. Spending a large amount of time on these sites may lead to increased rates of depression for several reasons. Another important factor regarding the impact of screen time on mental health is the user’s engagement. Some research suggests that active users of social media who engage with others more frequently may actually be helping their mental health; whereas, passive social media use can increase symptoms of depression by 33% in adults.3

Still, other researchers argue that it isn’t the activity being done that is the most problematic. The real and lasting issues stem from the secondary consequences of internet use like sleep loss and internet withdrawal. They argue that these issues can often be a greater predictor of mental health outcomes than the specific online activity.4

While many heavy screen time users may be hurting their mental health, not all screen time may be bad. Some users argue that their screen time may help them connect with others or help get them through difficult times. Nevertheless, it appears that the overall trend is that screen time is bad for mental health. If you or your young adult is engaging in far too much screen time, they may require internet addiction treatment.


Secondary Problems from Poor Mental Health

Because screen time and mental health are related, it looks like overall mental health will likely continue to decline, and poor mental health is only the beginning. It can impact a person’s daily life and lead to several other issues. Poor mental health can impact a person’s work or schoolwork as well as their relationships with others. In order to cope with their anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, many people will lean on the numbing abilities of drugs and alcohol. When this behavior becomes habit, the imminent result is often an addiction. Thankfully, there are dual diagnosis programs that can help people work on both problems at once.

Whether a more recent development or if it has always been a problem, mental illness is not something that should go untreated. At Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches, we help patients with their behavioral health. To get more information on the programs we offer and to learn about getting yourself or a loved one help, call us today at 561-220-3981.



  1. NCBI – Associations between screen time and lower psychological well-being among children and adolescents: Evidence from a population-based study
  2. Integrative Medicine International – Impact of Internet Addiction on Mental Health: An Integrative Therapy Is Needed
  3. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking – Passive and Active Social Media Use and Depressive Symptoms Among United States Adults
  4. NCBI – Are Mental Health Effects of Internet Use Attributable to the Web-Based Content or Perceived Consequences of Usage? A Longitudinal Study of European Adolescents


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