Media Multitasking, Depression, Anxiety: Linked

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There is a link between having mental health problems and media multitasking, the habit of using two or more types of media simultaneously.

This information is significant in light of the increase in media use over the last 10 years.

The handling of media by young people in the U.S. increased 20% over the past decade; however, their time spent in media multitasking has mushroomed 120% during the same period.

The association between mental health issues and media multitasking was revealed recently by an investigative team at Michigan State University. The team leader, Mark Becker, said, “This [finding] could have important implications for understanding how to minimize the negative impacts of increased media multitasking.”

The Michigan State research team surveyed 319 people for:

  1. How many hours per week they used two or more types of media; primarily television, music, text messaging, cell phones, video games, computer games, and web surfing.
  2. The participant’s mental health status, using established, standard measures for anxiety and depressive symptoms.

Although the correlation found between mental distress and multimedia-tasking is clear, the research does not indicate whether media multitasking is a cause of symptoms or a behavior for coping with symptoms.

It still needs to be determined whether depressed, anxious young people multitask to manage psychological distress, or if media multitasking triggers anxiety or a depressed mood.

Making the Study Results Useful

  1. Know the signs of depression: fatigue, irritability, sleep problems, appetite changes, sadness, hopelessness, lack of motivation, thoughts of self-harm.
  2. Know the signs of anxiety: sleep problems, headache, irritability, muscle tension, gastrointestinal problems, poor concentration, startle easily.
  3. If you or your child are prone to anxiety or a depressed mood, pay attention to how you feel before, during, and after multitasking.

    If you are anxious or depressed and media multitasking calms you like a giant chill pill, or, if you feel a whopping let down when you stop multitasking, common sense suggests the multitasking is helping you manage distress.

    If you are tense while media multitasking or it leaves you restless, headachy, wired (can’t sleep), irritable, desperate, or sad, common sense suggests that media multitasking is making your symptoms worse or triggering them.

The incidence of depression, anxiety, and suicide in adolescents and young adults has risen dramatically during the same decade that media multitasking spiked. The Michigan State study suggests this is not a coincidence.

Whether you multitask with media is your choice, but consider what your common sense tells you and call your doctor if you come down with signs of anxiety or depression.

Source: MSU Today


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