Spending one hour less a day on your phone makes you happier and less anxious

Woman using her phone. (Getty Images)
Scrolling on your phone right now? (Getty Images)

Could cutting down on your phone time really change your life? It seems the answer is a big yes...

But using your phone for just one hour less a day is all it takes to make you feel less anxious, more satisfied with life and more likely to exercise, a study has found. We can manage that, surely...

"The smartphone is both a blessing and a curse," says study lead Dr. Julia Brailovskaia, with us spending roughly more than three hours a day glued to its screen, searching Google, looking for directions, checking emails, shopping, reading the news, chatting on social media and so on.

Though we rely on it, too much smartphone use is linked to problems like neck pain, eye problems, shortened attention span and obesity. That's why researchers at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) in Germany set out to find out just how much less smartphone use per day is good for us.

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Colorful cropped closeup of young people holding smartphones. Modern devices. Technological progress.
We spend on average more than three hours a day on our smartphones. (Getty Images)

The researchers recruited 619 people for their investigation and divided them randomly into three groups. A total of 200 people put their smartphone completely aside for a week, 226 reduced the amount of time they used the device for by one hour a day, and 193 didn't change anything in their behaviour.

They then interviewed all participants about their lifestyle habits and wellbeing immediately after the process, one month and four months later, asking them about how much physical activity they did, how many cigarettes they smoked, how satisfied with their life they felt and whether they showed any signs of anxiety or depression.

"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," Brailovskaia sums up the results. "In the group who reduced use, these effects even lasted longer and were therefore more stable than in the abstinence group."

Read more: Smartphones are giving two-year-olds mental health problems, study finds

A female sportsperson with black plastic water bottle doing sport outside in the countryside. (Getty Images)
Cutting our smartphone use by just one hour a day makes us less anxious, happier and more physically active. (Getty Images)

The one-week intervention also changed the participants' usage habits in the long term. Four months after the end of the experiment, the members of the abstinence group used their smartphone on average 38 minutes less per day than before.

But the group who had spent just one hour less per day on their phone during the experiment used it as much as 45 minutes less per day after the four-month period. Meanwhile, life satisfaction and time spent being physically active increased, while symptoms of depression and anxiety, and nicotine consumption decreased.

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"It's not necessary to completely give up the smartphone to feel better," says Brailovskaia, which might come as a relief to many, though "there may be an optimal daily usage time." The study has been published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.

Reckon you could get by without your phone for an extra hour today – and every day – to reap the benefits?

Watch: We can't help bus use our phones while eating