Are mobile phones bad for our mental health?

Continuing our theme this week on mental health and wellness as part of Eames’ support for Mental Health Awareness Week, I was drawn to an article in The Times which tackled the use of mobile phones after 10pm and how disrupted sleep has been associated with depression and unhappiness.

Research graded 91,000 middle-aged people on their sleep patterns and about one in 25 were still very active late into the night checking social media, watching television and on work email. The study says that this is more likely to lead to mood problems, and this group rated themselves as less happy and more lonely.

The common theme of very poor sleep hygiene and drew parallels between mood and thinking ability with stepping off long haul flight and caring for young children. Bad sleepers were 6 per cent more likely to suffer from depression and 11 per cent more likely to have bipolar disorder. Happiness was also scored 9 per cent lower.

Working in the recruitment sector which is fast paced and high pressure, there is unquestionably the temptation to be checking email 24-7. Whilst that can create the impression of dedication to your job, I am convinced that in the long run it’s misconceived and agree with the study that poor sleep interferes with your effectiveness at work. Of course, one must be realistic: deadlines need to be met and we all have to pull a long shift and ‘burn the midnight oil’ from time to time. But I don’t believe that’s sustainable without the distinct possibility of it impacting mental well-being and leading to burn out.

Dr Professor Smith who conducted this research was quoted as saying: “It’s unlikely that the way society is currently set up is good for your health. So many people are living in city environments flooded with light 24/7.” Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer echoes this; “there is increasing public and policy concern about the impact of computer/smartphone screen use, and ‘blue light’, upon human health,”

Mobile devices are unquestionably addictive but reports such as this should lead us to reflect on the long term impact of excessive screen time.

I’ve made some personal commitments to myself of late around a generally healthier lifestyle. I’ve tried to avoid using mobile devices after 9pm and leave them outside the bedroom to avoid blue light exposure immediately prior to sleep. I have also concentrated on trying to get a minimum 7 hours’ sleep and get up early in the morning for pre-work exercise. In the summer months, this is unquestionably easier as I’m sure we’d all agree that we are generally more motivated and ‘happier’ with the lighter mornings and long days.

There is no question that we all need to take some accountability for how we balance our lives. So how do you work hard, and work smart but create appropriate boundaries in your life?​