It causes an “imbalance” of chemicals in the brain
A recent study from Pew Research Center revealed that 46% of Americans “cannot live without their smartphones.” This expression poses a significant health concern, as the study discovered that smartphone addiction can result in an imbalance in the neurotransmitter GABA.
GABA, which is short for gamma-aminobutyric acid, is a main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the nervous system. It regulates various brain functions and, as an inhibitory chemical, can cause symptoms like drowsiness. In the study, researchers found that young people with a phone addiction showed increased levels of GABA in one region of the brain. According to the investigators, this can lead to anxiety.
What you can do about it:
Try to take a break from your gadgets. There are many ways to do this. For instance, you can choose to temporarily deactivate one of your social media accounts or designate “smartphone-free” days during the week. You can also use your gadgets in only certain spots in your house, such as the study or home office.
It can hinder your cognitive capacity
Cognitive capacity is the total amount of information that a person’s brain is capable of retaining at a particular moment. With more and more people becoming dependent on smartphones, researchers couldn’t help but wonder: how do smartphones affect cognitive health?
A 2017 study revealed that just the mere presence of smartphones can reduce a person’s cognitive capacity. Before testing the participants’ cognitive capacities, the researchers divided them into three groups:
- One group left their phones in another room.
- The next group kept their phones in their pockets or bags.
- The last group left their smartphones on their desks.
Results showed that the participants in the first group “performed better” than those that left their phones on their desk. Moreover, the researchers also concluded that while participants successfully resisted the temptation to check their phones, the mere presence of smartphones still “reduced the available cognitive capacity” since it allowed additional information, entertainment, and sources of distraction to be within reach at all times.
What you can do about it:
When trying to accomplish a task, avoid placing your smartphone on your desk or inside your pocket. If you can, leave it inside a not-easy-to-reach drawer or in another room. Furthermore, disable as many notifications as you can and put your phone on silent mode.
It promotes “digital amnesia”
Cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab coined the term “digital amnesia.” This refers to a person’s dependence on digital technology to recall important things.
When researching how smartphones can affect our health (particularly our memory), Kaspersky Lab conducted a study involving 1,000 US consumers ages 16 to 55. Alarmingly, 91 percent of the participants agreed that they use their smartphones as “an extension of their brains.” Furthermore, 44 percent admitted their phone “holds everything they need to recall or know.”