A new study conducted on 135 San Francisco State University students and published in NeuroRegulation, found that the heaviest smartphone users were the most depressed, anxious and lonely.
San Francisco State University Professor of Health Education Erik Peper and Associate Professor of Health Education Richard Harvey, who conducted the survey, argued that overuse of smart phones was just like any other type of substance abuse.
"The behavioural addiction of smartphone use begins forming neurological connections in the brain in ways similar to how opioid addiction is experienced by people taking Oxycontin for pain relief -- gradually," Dr Peper explained.
On top of that, addiction to social media technology may actually have a negative effect on social connection. The survey found that students who used their phones the most reported higher levels of feeling isolated, lonely, depressed and anxious.
They believe the loneliness is partly a consequence of replacing face-to-face interaction with a form of communication where body language and other signals cannot be interpreted.
The researchers also found that those same students almost constantly multi-tasked while studying, watching other media, eating or attending class. This constant activity allows little time for bodies and minds to relax and regenerate, said Dr Peper, and also result in "semi-tasking," where people do two or more tasks at the same time -- but half as well as they would have, if focused on one task at a time.
Dr Peper and Dr Harvey noted that digital addiction is a result of the tech industry's desire to increase corporate profits. "More eyeballs, more clicks, more money," said Dr Peper. "We are hijacked by those same mechanisms that once protected us and allowed us to survive -- for the most trivial pieces of information," he added.
''But just as we can train ourselves to eat less sugar, for example, we can take charge and train ourselves to be less addicted to our phones and computers. The first step is recognising that tech companies are manipulating our innate biological responses to danger,'' he said.
Dr Peper suggested turning off push notifications, only responding to email and social media at specific times and scheduling periods, with no interruptions to focus on important tasks.(UNI)