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We all like to think that we are unique and our problems are purely individual.

However, a new study has found that a lot of people are unhappy for the exact same reason.

It's not because of our jobs, lack of money or our routines but it's the thing that you are probably reading this article on.

Research published by PsychNETshowed that of 1 million teenagers surveyed in the United States, those that were unhappy spent a lot of time looking at screens.

Of the teens studied, those that admitted to spending more than five hours a day either on their phones, playing video games, watching TV or being online generally were considered to be unhappy.

In contrast, those that spent time with their friends, exercised, read books or studied were on the happier end of the spectrum.

The study has been conducted annually since 1991 and looks exclusively at students from the eighth to twelfth grades in the American school system.

In an article for QuartzJean Twenge, one of the study's lead authors and a Professor of Psychology from San Diego State University, writes:

Every year, teens are asked about their general happiness, in addition to how they spend their time.

We found that teens who spent more time seeing their friends in person, exercising, playing sports, attending religious services, reading or even doing homework were happier.

However, teens who spent more time on the internet, playing computer games, on social media, texting, using video chat or watching TV were less happy.

Considering this study has been ongoing for nearly 30 years the researchers have noticed a sudden plummet in teenage happiness around 2012, which is just around the time that smartphones became more readily available.

According to Twenge, internet usage doubled between 2006 and 2016 and 82 per cent of students in the twelfth grade now use social media every single day.

With this fall in happiness comes other more unfortunate effects such as depression, low self-esteem, self-harm, and suicide.

The psychological downside to using screens is not something that is unique among teenagers as studies, published by NCBI and Sage have shown that adults are also suffering.

Twenge adds:

A similar trend might be occurring for adults: My co-authors and I previously found that adults over age 30 were less happy than they were 15 years ago, and that adults were having sex less frequently. 

There may be many reasons for these trends, but adults are also spending more time with screens than they used to. That might mean less face-to-face time with other people, including with their sexual partners. 

The result: less sex and less happiness.

So, you would think that if we all gave up screens and social media for good then we would all start to feel a lot happier, right?

Curiously, the researchers found that teenagers who spent no time online or engaging with digital media were slightly less happy than those who spent only a short amount of time (less than an hour a day) online.

Obviously in this day and age, completely eradicating screens from your life is a near impossibility; but maybe rationing out your usage will help your levels of happiness.


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