The aim of the study was to determine the short-term longitudinal pathways between smartphone use, smartphone dependency, depressive symptoms, and loneliness among late adolescents.
A two-wave longitudinal survey was used using adolescents between the ages of 17 and 20 years. The interval between wave 1 and wave 2 was between 2.5 and 3 months. Using convenience sampling, the total number of participants who completed both waves of data collection was 346. Validated measures assessed smartphone dependency, smartphone use, depressive symptoms, and loneliness. The longitudinal model was tested using path modeling techniques.
Among the 346 participants (33.6% male, mean [standard deviation] age at wave 1, 19.11 [.75] years, 56.9% response rate), longitudinal path models revealed that wave 1 smartphone dependency predicted loneliness (β = .08, standard error [SE] = .05, p = .043) and depressive symptoms (β = .11, SE = .05, p = .010) at wave 2, loneliness at wave 1 predicted depressive symptoms at wave 2 (β = .21, SE = .05, p < .001), and smartphone use at wave 1 predicted smartphone dependency at wave 2 (β = .08, SE = .05, p = .011).
Considering the rates of smartphone ownership/use among late adolescents (95%), the association between smartphone use and smartphone dependency, and the deleterious effects of loneliness and depression within this population, health practitioners should communicate with patients and parents about the links between smartphone engagement and psychological well-being.
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Published online: August 31, 2019
Accepted: June 5, 2019
Received: January 17, 2019
Conflicts of interest: The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
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