- Constant smartphone use can cause adults to grow into ADHD, report shows
- ADHD in adults jumped from 4.4 percent in 2003 to 6.3 percent in 2020
- READ MORE: What are the symptoms of ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is on the rise among adults and researchers say smartphones could be partly to blame.
Doctors have been trying to work out whether a steady rise in ADHD in adulthood is simply due to better screening or environmental and behavioral factors.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has linked people who use their smartphones for two or more hours per day are 10 percent more at risk of developing Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The disorder is primarily linked to young children, with the possibility that a child can grow out of it, but the distractions created by smartphones involving social media, texting, streaming music, and movies or TV are creating an ADHD epidemic among adults.
ADHD is on the rise among adults, and constant smartphone use might be at fault
Researchers theorize that social media bombards people with constant information, causing them to take frequent breaks from their tasks to check their phone.
People who spend their free time using technology aren’t allowing their brain to rest and focus on one single task, and the combined distractions can cause adults to develop shorter attention spans and become easily distracted.
‘For a long time, the association between ADHD and heavy online use was a chicken-and-egg question in our field: Do people become heavy online consumers because they have ADHD and online life betters suits their attention span, or do they develop ADHD as a result of excessive online consumption?’ Elias Aboujaoude, a behavioral psychiatrist at Stanford University, told StudyFinds.
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition that can cause people to have a limited attention span, hyperactivity, or impulsivity that can impact their every-day life, including relationships and jobs, causing them to be less productive.
Researchers say more adults may be ‘growing into’ ADHD because of the constant distraction smartphones pose, adding that people who constantly use their devices don’t allow their brain to rest in default mode.
‘It is legitimate to look at the possibility of acquired attention deficit,’ John Ratey, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, told National Geographic.
He said people are constantly pushed to multitask in today’s society, and the omnipresent use of technology can cause screen addiction, potentially leading to a shorter attention span.
ADHD has historically been defined as a genetic disorder that can be managed through medication and therapy.
But researchers have now found that lifestyle changes later in life, like becoming too reliant on your smartphone, may make ADHD an acquired disorder.
If a person is constantly on their phone checking social media, they may feel the need during work hours to take frequent breaks to see if someone commented or liked their post.
The practice can almost become subconscious, making the person feel distracted during work or feel an inability to focus, which can develop into ADHD.
The number of adults diagnosed with ADHD across the world jumped from 4.4 percent in 2003 to 6.3 percent in 2020.
An estimated 8.7 million adults in the U.S. have ADHD while roughly six million children ages three to 17 years old are diagnosed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
ADHD can affect your ability to focus on relationships or at work
‘That’s about 366 million adults worldwide currently living with ADHD, which is roughly the population of the U.S.,’ Russell Ramsay, co-founder of the Penn Adult ADHD Treatment and Research Program for the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania told National Geographic.
According to the study, evidence suggests that technology impacts brain function and behavior, leading to heightened ADHD symptoms including impaired emotional and social intelligence, technology addiction, social isolation, impaired brain development, and disrupted sleep.
The researchers looked at several studies dating back to 2014 that analyzed the correlation between ADHD and media use.
They reported that the studies found adolescents who didn’t have symptoms of ADHD at the start of the studies, did show there was a ‘significant association between more frequent use of digital media and symptoms of ADHD after 24 months of follow-up.’
A separate study conducted in 2018 focused on whether smartphones contributed to teenagers developing ADHD symptoms over two years.
That study found 4.6 percent of the 2,500 high school students who said they didn’t use digital media frequently developed ADHD symptoms by the end of the study.
Meanwhile, 9.5 percent of the teens who reported using social media frequently at the beginning of the study showed ADHD symptoms when the study concluded.
For adults who want to shed the unwanted side effects that accompany overusing their smartphones, they should take steps to develop a healthy relationship with their technology including spending less time on their phone, setting phone time limits, and taking time to rest away from technology.