Washington: Smartphone addicts, take note! People who use digital technology excessively may develop ADHD-like symptoms even if they are not diagnosed with the disorder, a new study has warned.
“With the internet in their pockets, people today are bombarded with notifications – whether from email, text messaging, social media or news apps – anywhere they go,” said Kostadin Kushlev from University of Virginia in the US.
“We are seeking to better understand how this constant inflow of notifications influences our minds,” said Kushlev. Recent polls have shown that as many as 95 per cent of smartphone users have used their phones during social gatherings; that seven in 10 people used their phones while working, said Kushlev.
Smartphone owners spend nearly two hours per day using their phones, he added.
Researchers designed a two-week experimental study and showed that when students kept their phones on ring or vibrate, they reported more symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity than when they kept their phones on silent.
“We found the first experimental evidence that smartphone interruptions can cause greater inattention and hyperactivity – symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – even in people drawn from a nonclinical population,” said Kushlev.
During Kushlev’s and his colleagues’ study, 221 students at the University of British Columbia in Canada were assigned for one week to maximise phone interruptions by keeping notification alerts on, and their phones within easy reach.
During another week participants were assigned to minimise phone interruptions by keeping alerts off and their phones away. At the end of each week, participants completed questionnaires assessing inattention and hyperactivity.
The results showed that the participants experienced significantly higher levels of inattention and hyperactivity when alerts were turned on, researchers said.
The results suggest that even people who have not been diagnosed with ADHD may experience some of the disorder’s symptoms, including distraction, difficulty focusing and getting bored easily when trying to focus, fidgeting, having trouble sitting still, difficulty doing quiet tasks and activities, and restlessness, they said.
“Smartphones may contribute to these symptoms by serving as a quick and easy source of distraction,” said Kushlev. The findings suggest that our constant digital stimulation may be contributing to an increasingly problematic deficit of attention in modern society, Kushlev said.
“Importantly, we found that people can reduce the harmful effects of overstimulation by smartphones simply by keeping their phones on silent and out of easy reach whenever possible, thus keeping notifications at bay,” he added.