On average, young adults in Canada spend several hours on their smartphones every day. Many jump from TikTok to Netflix to Instagram, putting their phone down only to pick up a video game controller. A growing body of research is looking into the potential dangers of digital media overuse and the benefits of moderate digital media use from a mental health standpoint.
A recent McGill University study of 425 Quebecers between the ages of 18 and 25 found that young adults with more frequent psychotic experiences also tend to spend more time using digital media. Interestingly, the study, which surveyed the participants over a period of six months, also found that spending more time on digital media did not seem to cause any change in the frequency of psychotic experiences over time, said lead author and psychiatry resident at McGill, Vincent Paquin.
By "psychotic experiences," the researchers refer to a range of unusual thoughts and perceptions, such as the belief of being in danger and the experience of hearing and seeing things that other people cannot see or hear. These experiences are relatively common, affecting about 5% of young adults.
Accessing mental health services through digital media
The researchers hope their findings will help improve mental health services for young people. By better understanding the types of digital contents and activities that matter to young people, mental health services can be made more accessible and better aligned with individual needs, they say.