Can Multitasking Make You Sad?

Michael Gowan, TechNewsDaily contributor
December 6, 2012

Do you surf on your tablet or text on your phone while watching TV? If so, how's your mood? A new study asserts that the more you multitask using multiple screens, the more likely you are to feel depressed or anxious. The question is: why?

Cognitive psychologist Mark Becker at Michigan State University said that the question remains whether "second screening" is the cause of the psychological stress, or whether people who are anxious and depressed tend to use multiple screens at once.

Becker got the idea for the research after comparing notes with some of his colleagues. "It seemed like kids these days are really making themselves depressed and anxious with this constant plugged-in status," Becker told TechNewsDaily.

In the survey of 319 college students, Becker's team found that those who used multiple media devices the most were almost twice as likely to report depressive symptoms as those who used a second screen the least. They also found a similar increase in social anxiety symptoms between those two groups.

Becker's findings come at a time when simultaneous use of devices is increasing. A November report from Nielsen shows that 40 percent of Americans use their smartphone or tablet while watching TV at least once a day, and 85 percent do so at least once a month.

The Michigan State research didn't specify what kind of media the respondents used. So the research didn't pinpoint correlations between specific device combinations, such as a tablet and TV. Becker said he plans more studies to delve into the details. [See also: Do Tablets Make People Happy?]

If you second screen frequently and feel anxious or depressed, Becker recommends trying a media vacation. "Turn off the systems for a while and see if you feel better or worse," he said.

This story was provided by TechNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience.

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