How bad is our digital addiction? We’ve compiled all the latest statistics, facts and research here. As new studies are released we’ll be adding to this so come back and check regularly for the most up-to-date facts.

The facts on our digital and internet addiction and the need for digital detox


Screens in the pandemic

Over 3/4 of American families have committed to taking part in a digital detox after lockdown.

During the lockdown, Australia’s National Broadband saw an increase of 70-80% of screen-time usage amongst its customers.

Ofcom even found that during lockdown people in the UK were spending around 40% of their time watching TV and online video.

A poll by YouGov found that almost half of respondents screen-time has increased since the pandemic.


Scrolling our lives away

UK adults spend an average of 8 hours 41 minutes a day on screens (more time than they are asleep).

We now spend an average of a day a week online.

UK children spend 6 1/2 hours a day on screens.

The average user logs 2.15 hours a day on social media alone – up from 1.5 hours in 2012.

And checks their smartphone every 12 minutes.

A 2016 study estimates that we tap, swipe and click on our devices 2,617 times each day.

UK adults now spend a total of 25 hours a week online – up from 9 hours a week in 2005.

Growing dependence

The number of smartphone users worldwide today is over three billion and is projected to grow by several hundred million in the next few years (3.8 billion by 2021).

34% of people have checked Facebook in the last ten minutes.

Two in five adults (40%) first look at their phone within five minutes of waking up, rising to 65% of those aged under 35.

66% of UK smartphone owners in a study self-reported suffering from ‘nomophobia’, the fear of losing or being without their phones at any given time – obsessively checking to make sure they have their phone with them, and constantly worrying about losing it somewhere.

The first inpatient facility for treating internet addiction in the US opened in 2013. China has opened 300 teenage bootcamps imposing a strict digital detox to deal with increasing problems of teen internet addiction and computer addiction.

62% of polled UK adults say they ‘hate’ how much time they spend on their phone.

More than two in five (43%) of UK adults admit to spending too much time online.

A study found that just seeing the Facebook logo can spark cravings that are difficult to ignore.

27% of UK children say their parents have double standards about technology.

46% of Americans say they could not live without their mobile phones.

A recent study by Binghamton University found that women were more likely to exhibit susceptibility to smartphone addiction than men.

Dr Richard Graham, lead technology addiction specialist at London’s Nightingale Hospital sees around 50 new cases of digital addiction each year.

Mental health

A link has been found between the surge in screen-use and mental health struggles, especially amongst young people.

One study from Notre Dame University-Louaize on university students found that high avoidant attachment, low self-esteem and high anxiety level may lead to a tendency for smartphone addiction, compounding the negative impacts of digital technology itself.

A study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University found that people who sent or received more messages, comments and Timeline posts reported improvements in social support, depression and loneliness.

However, passive use of social media leads to negative results, so it is how you use thte technology that matters. 

In its 2017 Stress in America survey, The American Psychological Association (APA) found that “constant checkers” – people who check their emails, texts, and social media on a constant basis – experience more stress than those who don’t. More than 42% of respondents attribute their stress to political and cultural discussions on social media, compared with 33% of non-constant checkers.

Almost half of the 18-34-year-olds said their social media feeds made them feel unattractive.

A study by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that heavy social media users were twice as likely to report experiencing social isolation.

In 2017, Instagram was rated as the worst social media platform for its impact on the mental health of young people.

Gaming addiction is to be listed as a mental health condition for the first time in 2018 by the World Health Organisation.

There is a strong link between heavy internet use and depression, with heavy users 5x more likely to suffer from depression than non-heavy users.

52% of school-age students said social media makes them feel less confident about their appearance and how interesting their life is.

A study by the National Institute of Mental Health has found a strong and significant association between social media use and depression.

Scientists have also found a link between heavy Facebook use and depressive symptoms, including low self-esteem.

A study has shown that as mobile phone use increases, so does anxiety.

A 2016 study by the University of Pittsburgh revealed that those who use 7-10 social media platforms were 3x more likely to report depressive symptoms than those who use 2 or fewer.

A 2015 University of Derby study found higher scores of narcissism and levels of neuroticism were linked to smartphone addiction.

A study found teenagers who text compulsively have a lot in common with compulsive gamblers.

Staying off all social media for a week has been shown in a study to increase happiness.

Teens deemed addicted to their smartphones recorded significantly higher scores in depression, anxiety, impulsive behavior and insomnia.

Psychiatrists have issued warnings over the link between depression and video game addiction, after MRI scans revealed potential damage caused to young brains.

A new study published has linked too much smartphone use with higher incidences of anxiety and depression.

Social media makes 7 million Brits ‘depressed’ looking at friends’ perfect lives

New research by Nottingham Trent University finds that a third of the smartphone notifications we receive worsen our mood.

Focus and concentration

In 2016 a Pew Research Centre poll found that one in five employees are distracted at work by social media.

One study published by the Journal of Behavioural Addictions also found that when problem-solving taking a break to look at your phone can make you 19% longer and 22% less effective.

Longer time spent on technology each day has been definitively linked to worsened work productivity by the University of San Francisco in 2016.

Human average attention spans have declined significantly in the 11 years since smartphones existed and are now lower than that of a goldfish.

A new study from the University of Chicago has shown that our IQ is lowered by the presence of our phones even when they are face down and turned off on the desk.

As our tech habits deny our brains important downtime, our ability for deep-thinking and maintained focus is reducing.

Skills in critical thinking and analysis have declined as our use of technology has increased.

Many argue that a decrease in attention span is made up by our increased ability to multi-task. However, Research from (MIT) and others proved that multitasking doesn’t work – because the brain doesn’t work that way.

A link has been found between excessive social media use and poor academic performance.

The act of just receiving a notification, even if you don’t reply to it, is enough to severely distract you.

One in ten of UK adults feel more productive when they are offline, rising to 15% for 18- to 34-year-olds; and 16% say they feel less distracted offline.

Damage to the brain

Researchers at the Society of North America even found an imbalance in the brain chemistry of young people addicted to smartphones and the internet in 2017.

Neuroimaging research has shown that excessive screen time actually damages the brain. (Structural and functional changes have been found in brain regions involving emotional processes, executive attention, decision making and cognitive control).

“The behavioral addiction of smartphone use begins forming neurological connections in the brain in ways similar to how opioid addiction is experienced by people taking Oxycontin for pain relief — gradually” stated Peper the author of a San Francisco State University research paper on the topic.

According to research by University College London, media-multitasking and rapidly switching from task to task can weaken your brain’s anterior cingulate cortex, which is involved in high-level information and emotion processing.


Screens in bed

After trialling sleeping without their phone in their room 93.6% of participants “might” or “would” consider not sleeping with their phone again due to the myriad benefits they experienced a University of London study found.

Longer time spent on technology each day has been definitively linked to shortened sleep by the University of San Francisco in 2016.

A 2015 survey conducted by Deloitte found that around 59% of smartphone users check a social media platform in the five minutes prior to going to bed, and within 30 minutes of waking up.

47% of adults miss out on sleep due to internet usage.

95% of adults in a US study admitted to using some type of screen in the hour leading up to bed*. (*Artificial blue light emitting from screens increase alertness and suppresses the hormone melatonin by up to 22% which negatively impacts sleep).

32% of adults who have binge-watched a series at least once in the last month have missed out on sleep as a result.

A recent study showed that teenagers with screen time of more than four hours per day were 3.5x more likely to get poor sleep – sleeping fewer than five hours at night. They were also 49% likelier to need more than one hour to fall asleep.

Screens and children

54% of U.S. teens say they spend too much time on their cellphones, and two-thirds of parents express concern over their teen’s screen time.

A 2012 study from the University of Gothenburg found that there is a sweet spot for smartphone use, which, for teenagers at least, appears to be 1 hr 57 mins a day.

An LSE study in 2015 found that test scores of 16-year-old pupils improved by 6.4 per cent when their phones were taken away.

American research on 18-year-olds has found that those parted from their phones wrote down more, recalled more and scored a grade and a half higher in multiple-choice tests than those still clutching them.

According to a recent YouGov poll commissioned by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association among parents with children ages 8 or younger: 95% say their tech use interferes with daily opportunities for talking, playing and interacting with their child without distraction at least a little.

A UCLA study found that pre-teens who were deprived of screens for five days through a digital detox were much better at reading people’s emotions (non-verbal skills) than children who continued using screens.

Many UK parents find it easier to get their children to do homework, go to bed or have a bath than turn off their phones, laptops, and TVs, a UK poll found.

6 out of 10 Americans wish their family members would unplug from technology more often.

60% of UK parents believe their child spends too much time on their mobile device at home

A University of Sheffield study highlights that spending an hour a day on social media reduces the probability of a child being completely happy with their life by 14%.

A study has found that every hour that infants and toddlers aged between 6 and 36 months used touchscreen devices was linked to 15.6 minutes less sleep.

New research being presented at the 2017 Paediatric Academic Societies Meeting finds that every additional 30 minutes of hand-held screen time is linked to a 49% increased risk of expressive speech delay in children under two years of age.

22% of 12-15 year olds say that binge-watching series has led them to neglect their school work.

Blue light and digital eye strain

A 2018 study from the Dublin Institute of Technology found that short-sighted students use almost double the amount of mobile phone data daily compared to students who were not short-sighted, suggesting that overusing screens contribute to eye problems.

A US survey found that more than 73% of young adults (under 30) suffer from symptoms of digital eye strain from screen overuse, including dry, irritated eyes, blurred vision, neck and back pain, and headaches.

Over a third of people believe that their increased screen time in lockdown has caused their eyesight to deteriorate.

‘Always-on’ culture

According to the American Psychological Association, 53 percent of Americans work over the weekend, 52 percent work outside designated work hours, and 54 percent work even when sick due to the ‘always on’ culture we have created.

 60% of people say a traditional vacation/holiday does not relieve their stress with many admitting to checking emails and taking phone calls while away, sometimes multiple times a day. A digital detox deals with computer addiction by removing all work-related communications allowing a proper break.

Fifteen per cent of UK adults say being constantly connected makes them feel they are always at work.

Checking work emails decreases your focus, as well as making you more stressed.

An ‘always on’ culture with high expectations to monitor and respond to emails during non-work time may prevent employees from ever fully disengaging from work, leading to chronic stress and emotional exhaustion.

Decreasing human connection

31% of internet users miss out on spending time with friends and family.

More than half (58%) of UK adults now say they use text messages at least once a day to communicate with family and friends, while only 49% meet people face-to face on such a regular basis. However, the majority of of UK adults say they would actually prefer to meet (67%) or speak on the phone (10%) than communicate by text.

More than half of UK adults (54%) admit that connected devices interrupt face-to-face conversations with friends and family.

26% of adults have sent text or instant messages to friends or family while in the same room.

39% of UK children say they sometimes communicate with their parents by text, email and social media whilst being at home at the same time 

Download the 5:2 Digital Diet cheat sheet for some tips on how to try out a digital detox experience at home.

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Why should you take a digital detox? These surprising digital detox facts on technology, smartphone, social media and internet addiction might persuade you! Find out how our tech habits are affecting our brains, mental health and happiness.
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Time to Log Off
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