Kids With Early Smartphone Use Have Worse Mental Health

New global study from Sapien Labs finds consistent links, stronger for girls

Recent Jon Haidt substack dives into the results.

For parents who resisted, or who plan to resist, a new report may encourage many more parents to join you: Sapien Labs, which runs an ongoing global survey of mental health with nearly a million participants so far, released a “Rapid Report” today on a question they added in January asking young adults (those between ages 18 and 24): “At what age did you get your own smartphone or tablet (e.g. iPad) with Internet access that you could carry with you?”  When they plot the age of first smartphone on the X axis against their extensive set of questions about mental health on the Y axis, they find a consistent pattern: the younger the age of getting the first smartphone, the worse the mental health that the young adult reports today. This is true in all the regions studied (the survey is offered in English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Arabic, Hindi, and Swahili), and the relationships are consistently stronger for women.

It didn’t use to be this way…..before smartphones and social media.

There is a well-known finding in happiness research that, across nearly all nations, happiness or well-being forms a U-shaped curve across the lifespan (See Rauch, 2018). Young adults and people in their 60s and 70s are happier than those in middle age. But that may be changing, especially for women, as Gen Z (born in and after 1996) enters young adulthood. You can see the sudden collapse of young adult mental health in some of our previous posts on this Substack. For example, Figure 1 shows that up until 2011, young Canadian women were the most likely to report having excellent or very good mental health. By 2015 they were the least likely, and the decline in their self-reported mental health accelerated after that, while it changed very little for older women. (The same pattern holds for Canadian men, but to a lesser degree.)

Check out the details here. And read his advice to parents, schools, & legislators on how to move forward.

“Crypto Connection by Frederico Clapis” by Dave Pearce (London) is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.


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