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Effects of Screens on Mental Health

woman with head resting on hand staring at screen

Photo by Niklas Hamann on Unsplash


It goes without saying that our habits and behaviors can impact our mental health and well-being, which is why we must be so careful with how we spend our time. 

For example, various studies have found that too much screen time—whether it be scrolling on our phones or working at our desks—can be detrimental to our mental health, leading to an increase in negative feelings such as stress and anxiety. 

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the impact our screen time can have on our well-being, alongside providing some practical advice you can use to combat this. 

Why Do We Spend So Much Time Behind A Screen?

According to a recent study, “the average person spends 6 hours and 58 minutes per day behind a screen.” To put this into greater context, this is similar to the amount of time the average person spends sleeping.

Of course, there are many reasons why we spend so much time behind screens. We live in a world where relying on digital technology has become the norm, whether we use it as a tool to socialize, keep in touch with family and friends, or for work. In fact, it's hard to imagine a world free of screens entirely, especially when they can simplify some of our most common daily routines.

However, it's crucial that you monitor your screen time carefully in order to avoid overexposure. 

What Are the Effects of Overexposure to Screen Time? 

There are many adverse side effects associated with too much screen time. 

For example, one study that explored the use of screens among teenagers found that “After 1 h/day of use, more hours of daily screen time were associated with lower psychological well-being, including less curiosity, lower self-control, more distractibility, more difficulty making friends, less emotional stability, being more difficult to care for, and inability to finish tasks.” 

Too much social-media-orientated screen time can impact your mental health because it encourages you to compare yourself to others on your feed, which can damage your self-worth. 

More generally, spending too much time behind a screen can also increase our stress levels, especially when consuming negative content. Furthermore, this can impact our ability to get a good night’s sleep, which can “increase negative emotional responses to stressors and decrease positive emotions.” 

Finally, too much screen time can also lead to a more sedentary lifestyle, as you’re most likely to be using screens when indoors. Over time, this can impact various aspects of your mental health.

Ways to Limit Screen Time

If you’ve noticed that your screen time is beginning to negatively impact your mental health, then you must begin to limit this. While this does not mean you can simply clock out of work early, there are plenty of ways you can tackle this issue and learn to cope with overexposure. For example, you can:

  • Develop offline hobbies. The more offline hobbies you develop, the less time you’ll spend glued to your phone or laptop. Fortunately, there are thousands of hobbies to choose from him, whether that be reading, arts and crafts, or something centered around exercising and working out. Finding a hobby that you are passionate about is also good for your mental health.
  • Wear blue light glasses. Blue light glasses help to protect your eyes from the blue light emitted from screens, which can otherwise cause eye strain and headaches and interrupt your sleeping pattern. By wearing these glasses, you can minimize the negative health impacts associated with screen time, which, in turn, will help with your mental health. 
  • Strategically interact with positive content. If you are looking for a way to ensure that your time spent online is positive, be more strategic when selecting the content you interact with. For example, you should unfollow any social media accounts that encourage self-comparison, as this is a great way to boost your self-esteem.  
  • Set timers on your apps. If you’re worrying about spending too much time online, you could also set timers on your apps that block access after you’ve been scrolling for a certain period. Over time, this will make you more aware of your online habits, making them easier to control and manage. You may also notice positive mental health benefits in turn. 
  • Find healthy outlets for your emotions. Another way in which you can ensure your screen time does not impact your mental health is by finding healthy outlets for your emotions. For example, you may want to look into therapy programs that help you to enact positive change in your life, or simply ensure that you speak openly about how you are feeling to someone you can trust.  
  • Prioritize face-to-face interactions. While online platforms, such as social media, can be a great way to stay connected, it's important that you don’t value these interactions more than face-to-face meetings with friends and family. As such, you should always ensure you leave some time in your schedule to hang out in person, especially if you have not seen each other for a while. The more socializing you do in person, and the less digitally centered, the better—especially as this makes it easier to have open and honest conversations and strengthen your relationships. 

Final Thoughts

As mentioned above, we live in a world that relies on technology, meaning we probably couldn’t go through our day without it. For example, it would be impossible to collaborate on a project with a colleague who works remotely without technology. Nevertheless, being mindful of how we use our screens can work wonders for our mental health, helping us leave feelings of anxiety, stress, and negativity behind.

However, like with all habits, it's often not as simple as putting your phone down and walking away, and it may take a little getting used to. At Jackson House, we’re always on hand to help you deal with any confusing emotions or negative habits so that you can begin to put your well-being first. Get in touch today to find out more. 

About the author

Jackson House

Jackson House

We built Jackson House because we realized there was a critical gap in our healthcare system and many individuals with mental illnesses and substance abuse problems were struggling because of it. While there are many outpatient treatment options and locked, inpatient facilities there was nothing in the middle. Nothing to help people who needed around the clock care but wanted to receive treatment voluntarily, on their own terms. Jackson House is different. We provide clients with the level of care they need in a welcoming environment. When you walk through our doors, we will meet you wherever you’re at and help you on your journey toward feeling better.

It's time to feel better

We are here to help and we are in-network with most insurance providers. Call us for a free and confidential consultation.

If you’re a provider and need to send us information on a client, please feel free to fax us at 619-303-7044. If you need help immediately, call our 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-766-4274. If you have a medical emergency, call 911. Jackson House is licensed by the State of California Community Care Licensing Division and certified by the Department of Health Care Services. We are also CARF Accredited. If you have any client or quality of care concerns, please reach out to us at (888) 255-9280. If your concerns need further attention, you can contact the Department of Public Health at 619-278-3700 or the Community Care Licensing Division at 1-844-538-8766.