A lot of new research seems to prove what we already know is true — that mental health and technology addiction are very much intertwined. There’s plenty of evidence showing that being glued to your device hurts your mental health. But according to a new study by the University of Derby and Nottingham Trent University, if you already struggle with mental health, you may be more likely to become addicted to your smartphone.

Dr. Zaheer Hussain, psychology lecturer at the UK’s University of Derby, said people struggling with anxiety and depression may “seek respite in very excessive smartphone use.” Using their phone may be “a form of therapy,” he explained. The study further revealed that an individual will use their smartphone more as they become more anxious. Another study found that being separated from your phone and forced to hear it ring can cause further anxiety.

The researchers studied 640 smartphone users between the ages of 13 and 69 to understand the link between specific personality traits and device dependency. Based on the results, subjects who were less open about their emotions were more prone to problematic smartphone behavior.

“They may be engaging in passive social network use, where you spend a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, browsing other peoples’ comments, pictures, and posts, and not posting anything of your own and not engaging in discussion with others, so there is no real positive social interaction while social networking,” Hussain said.

The study is the latest to raise concerns about how our relationship with technology and social media may worsen existing mental health issues. For example, research shows that time spent on Facebook is negatively associated with anxiety, depression and body image.

Toronto-based therapist Lesli Musicar told Global News that smartphone addiction and drug and alcohol addiction work the same way. “All kinds of obsessive-compulsive behaviours have to do with coping with pain,” she said. “It could be emotional pain, feeling abandoned or feeling afraid.”

With over four billion people using smartphones — a number that’s expected to hit 6.1 billion by 2020 — and the increasing prevalence of mental health issues worldwide, the time is now to be proactive in preventing further technology addiction in our society.

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  • Josephine Chu

    Thrive Global Contributor

    Josephine is a graduate of Cornell University where she studied psychology and film. She was previously a content intern at Thrive Global.