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Health & Medicine Media Multitasking Causes Depression and Anxiety

Media Multitasking Causes Depression and Anxiety

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First Posted: Dec 05, 2012 04:51 AM EST
Feeling Defeated Linked to High Risk of Depression of Anxiety
Feeling Defeated Linked to High Risk of Depression of Anxiety (Photo : Reuters)

The overall use of media among the American youth has increased 20 percent in the past decade. Focusing on the aspect of multiple media use, latest research suggests that using diverse forms of media simultaneously causes anxiety and depression.

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For the first time, a strong association has been devised between usage of multiple media such as television or playing computer games and symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Mark Becker from the Michigan State University, who is the lead investigator of the study, was astonished to find such a clear association between media multitasking and mental health problems.

"We don't know whether the media multitasking is causing symptoms of depression and social anxiety, or if it's that people who are depressed and anxious are turning to media multitasking as a form of distraction from their problems," said Becker, assistant professor of psychology.

For this study, Becker and fellow MSU researchers Reem Alzahabi and Christopher Hopwood surveyed 319 people on their media use and mental health.

The researchers asked these participants how many hours per week they used two or more of the primary  forms of media, which include television, music, cell phones, text messaging, computer and video games, web surfing and others. They used well established measures for the mental health survey, although the results do not reflect a clinical diagnosis.

Becker feels future research should explore cause and effect.  Suggestions could be given in order to alleviate the problems media multitasking is causing.

But if  depressed or anxious people are turning to media multitasking, it might actually help them deal with their problems. It could also serve as a warning sign that a youngster is becoming depressed or anxious.

"Whatever the case, it's very important information to have," Becker said. "This could have important implications for understanding how to minimize the negative impacts of increased media multitasking."

The study appears in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.

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