Between Instagram likes, Snapchats, and Tinder swipes, our smartphones can be more than a bit distracting. Maybe you’ve even joked about having ADD when it comes to your phone – well, as it turns out, you might not be far off.
In fact, a new study from UBC and the University of Virginia says the constant pinging of our phones might be causing ADHD-like symptoms in the general population.
Researchers found during the two week experimental study that students who kept their phones on vibrate or had the ringer switched on reported more symptoms of hyperactivity and distractedness than those who kept them on silent.
“We found the first experimental evidence that smartphone interruptions can cause greater inattention and hyperactivity – symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – even in people drawn from a nonclinical population,” says psychology research assistant at the University of Virginia Kostadin Kushlev, who led the study.
The study is based on 221 randomly selected UBC students who were instructed to keep their phones within easy reach and alerts on for a week. During another week, students were asked to keep alerts off and their phones out of reach. At the end of each experiment, they were asked to fill out questionnaires about inattention and hyperactivity, which researchers found dramatically increased when phone alerts were on.
Students experienced distraction, difficult focusing, getting bored easily, fidgeting, having trouble sitting still, and difficulty doing quiet tasks and activities, among other ADHD-like symptoms.
Kushlev wants to make one thing clear, though: these students didn’t actually develop ADHD, which is neurological in nature, they just displayed symptoms related to the disorder.
“The findings simply suggest that our constant digital stimulation may be contributing to an increasingly problematic deficit of attention in modern society,” he says. “Importantly, we found that people can reduce the harmful effects of overstimulation by smartphones simply by keeping their phones on silent and out of easy reach whenever possible, thus keeping notifications at bay.”
So what’s the moral of the story here? Turn your phone off more often.