Does smartphone use affect emotional health?

Does smartphone use affect emotional health?

In August 2022, Kontar surveyed 1,000 participants in each of the 10 countries to assess key issues related to physical and emotional health in the post-pandemic era. We assessed global outcomes as well as analyzed data for gender, age, and national influences.

Our new report, Connecting with the Health and Wellness Community, provides rich insights into the state of global health today, as well as how consumers are using technology to monitor and improve health.

The report also assesses global and national uptake and use of health and fitness apps and subscriptions.

Data shows that consumers reap benefits from using fitness apps for physical and emotional health. However, the majority of parents are concerned about the impact of smartphone use on the emotional health of teens and children.

Here we explore some of the main ideas.

Daily use of a smartphone

Smartphone use has now become an integral part of consumer behaviour. 20% of all respondents say that the first thing they do every day on their smartphone is to check their personal email. 17% open a social media app first.

Age affects how people for the first time use their smartphone every day. For example, Boomers are more likely to check their personal email (27%), read the news (18%), and send a text message (11%). Gen-Z, the younger group, has a different pattern, with 25% first opening a social media app, 13% checking personal email, and 12% listening to music first.

Globally, women report that they spend an average of 4.95 hours per day on a smartphone, compared to the male average of 4.4 hours.

Germans spend the least amount of time on their smartphones, with German men averaging 2.66 hours per day and women averaging 3.37 hours per day.

South Africa shows the highest levels of smartphone use for both men and women. Men use their phones an average of 6.38 hours a day, while women use their smartphones 6.76 hours a day.

The age group plays a major influence on smartphone use and decreases sequentially from the youngest consumers (Gen-Z) to the oldest (Boomers). Gen-Z respondents reported that they spend an average of 6.37 hours on their smartphone. Then average daily use drops, from Millennials (5.57 hours) to Gen-X (4.4 hours), to Boomers (3.38 hours).

Watches using smart phones

Consumer stress levels rise when they can’t find their smartphone

As smartphone use permeates daily life, consumers often experience higher stress levels when they cannot find their phones. This score also varies across generations, although a third of respondents to Boomer experience a stress level of six or higher (on a 10-point scale) when they cannot find their phone.

Millennials are more likely to experience stress in this situation, with 63% of these consumers reporting a stress level of six or higher. This is closely followed by Gen-Z at 60%, and Gen-X at 51% to report stress at such a high level.

Conversely, only 8% of both Gen-Z and Millennial respondents report a low level of stress (one or two) when they can’t find their phones. 15% of Gen-X have low levels of stress in this condition, compared to 32% of baby boomers.

Stress level not found on smartphones

Parents believe that smartphones have a negative impact on children’s emotional health

The data also provides insights into how parents perceive the health effects of smartphone use on children.

We asked parents whether or not they felt that smartphone use (child use, parental use, or both) had a negative impact on children.

Globally, more than 70% of parents believe that smartphone use has a negative impact on the emotional health of children aged 0-17.

With regard to very young children (ages 0-4), South African parents had the lowest overall level of anxiety about smartphone use, although more than half (62%) of these respondents agree that smartphones are have a negative effect. India had the highest level of anxiety for this age group, with 89% of parents feeling that smartphone use reduces emotional wellness.

Parents also felt that the emotional well-being of children (ages 5-12) and adolescents (aged 13-17) was negatively affected by smartphone use. Singapore and India were the most concerned in both cases, with 88% of Singaporean parents concerned about children’s emotional health and 85% concerned about adolescents. 85% of Indian parents were concerned about both age groups.

We also asked parents about children between the ages of 18 and 21. While the proportion of concerned parents decreased in each country for this group, the numbers remained high. Spanish parents had the lowest level of anxiety at 45%, while India and Brazil topped the list with 78% and 70%, respectively.

Parents' feelings for smartphones affect children

Get more answers

For more ideas from this comprehensive study, access the full community report: Connecting with the Health and Wellness Community.

Discover more generation, gender, and country insights into the impact of the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis on emotional wellness and the ways respondents are using digital technology to access health resources.

This research was conducted online using 10,000 respondents (1,000 per market) obtained from the Kantar profile audience network across ten global markets: United States, Brazil, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, South Africa, China, India and Singapore.

All interviews were conducted online in August 2022 and compiled based on local census distributions of age and gender. Generation groups were defined as: Gen-Z (18-24), Millennials (25-39), Gen-X (40-55), Boomers (56-75).

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