More Smartphone Use Leads to 'Leisure Distress'

A new study has found that young adults who are high-frequency smartphone users experience “leisure distress,” defined as feeling uptight, stressed, and anxious during free time.

“The high-frequency cell phone user may not have the leisure skills necessary to creatively fill their free time with intrinsically rewarding activities,” said Andrew Lepp, Ph.D., a researcher at Kent State University in Ohio.

“For such people, the ever-present smartphone may provide an easy, but less satisfying and more stressful, means of filling their time.”

Lepp and his colleagues Jacob Barkley, Ph.D., Jian Li, Ph.D., and a Kent State graduate student, Saba Salehi-Esfahani, surveyed a random sample of 454 college students to examine how different types of cell phone users experience daily leisure.

The researchers from Kent State’s College of Education, Health and Human Services measured each person’s total daily cell phone use, personality, and experience of daily leisure. The students were then categorized into groups based on similar patterns of smartphone use and personality. Lastly, each group’s experience of daily leisure was compared.

An analysis revealed three types of cell phone users: Low-use extroverts, low-use introverts, and a high-use group.

The high-use group made up about 25 percent of the sample and averaged more than 10 hours of cell phone use per day, according to the researchers. An increased level of smartphone use was this group’s defining characteristic and was associated with a diminished experience of daily leisure, the researchers reported.

In comparison to the other two groups, the high-frequency cell phone users experienced significantly more leisure distress — feeling uptight, stressed, and anxious during free time.

“In our previously published research, we found that high-frequency cell phone users often described feeling obligated to remain constantly connected to their phones,” Barkley said. “This obligation was described as stressful, and the present study suggests the stress may be spilling over into their leisure.”

By contrast, the low-use extrovert group averaged about three hours of smartphone use per day and had the greatest preference to challenge themselves during leisure time, as well as low levels of leisure boredom and distress, according to the study’s findings.

“Although this study was not designed to assess cause and effect, the relationships identified are important to reflect upon,” Li said.

“Being constantly connected to your phone is not likely to enhance your experience of leisure. On the other hand, disconnecting for short periods of time in order to seek more challenging leisure opportunities is likely to be beneficial.”

The study was published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

Source: Kent State University

Young woman anxiously thinking about her smartphone photo by shutterstock.