A “digital detox” does not improve wellbeing say psychologists


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A 24-hour period of abstinence from your smartphone induces cravings, but mood and anxiety remain stable say psychologists.

The study asked participants to place their phone in a secure sealed bag for 24 hours with a request not to open it. 

In a small sample of smartphone users, psychologists measured three variables -mood, anxiety, and craving- on four occasions, which included a 24-hour period of smartphone abstinence.

Only craving was affected following this brief period of abstinence, but it had no impact on mood and anxiety. 

The study published in Addictive Behaviors was led by Dr Thomas Wilcockson, formerly of Lancaster University and now at Loughborough University, with Lancaster University’s Dr David Ellis and Mr Ashley Osborne of the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore.

Dr Wilcockson said: “The craving results indicate that, as expected, people enjoy using their smartphones and miss them when they are unavailable.”

Dr Ellis added: ‘The growing popularity of “digital detoxes” has been encouraged by claims that removing oneself from technology can help reduce stress and improve well-being. However, our results suggest that a short-term digital detox from your smartphone is unlikely to provide any health benefits.’ 

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