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Just A 1-Week Smartphone Detox Changes Smartphone Use Long-Term

Decreasing your phone use for one week can help create positive habits that stick around for months, according to a new report. 

Decreasing phone use for at least one hour per day for a week can result in less smartphone use long-term, according to the new study. The researchers divided a group of more than 600 people into three cohorts — one group that discontinued smartphone use entirely for one week, one group that decreased smartphone use by one hour per day for one week, and a third group that did not alter smartphone use at all.

The research team interviewed participants immediately following the completion of their week-long smartphone detox, as well as at one month and four months post-experiment. Even four months later, they found that the group of participants who decreased usage by one hour for one week used their phone as much as 45 minutes less per day. They also reported increased life satisfaction and physical activity, as well as reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety and decreased nicotine use for the smokers and vapers in the group.

The group who gave up their phones entirely for one week reported similar changes, but only used their phones for around 38 minutes less per day — seven minutes more use in 24 hours than the group that decreased their use by an hour per day during that week-long period.

“We found that both completely giving up the smartphone and reducing its daily use by one hour had positive effects on the lifestyle and well-being of the participants,” said Julia Brailovskaia, Ph.D., an author on the study and a postdoctoral researcher at the Mental Health Research and Treatment Center at Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany. “In the group who reduced use, these effects even lasted longer and were thus more stable than in the abstinence group.”

According to Pew Research data from 2021, approximately 85% of Americans over the age of 18 own smartphones. Nearly half of respondents to a 2021 Statista poll reported spending five to six hours on their smartphones per day, not including work-related smartphone use.

Smartphone use has been linked to increases in depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and addictive behavior. Previous research has also found links between excessive phone use and decreased gray matter in the brain, migraines, and other cognitive and neurological problems. 

As with most things, moderation is key when it comes to smartphone use. Spending less time on your phone opens up more time for healthy lifestyle habits. In turn, this may increase longevity while bolstering mental health more than just cutting back on smartphone use alone.

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