If you’re wondering why you’ve been having relationship problems, the answer may be in the palm of your hand. A new study from Baylor University has found that our smartphone obsessions are contributing to relationship woes — and leading to depression.
Researchers James A. Roberts and Meredith David conducted two separate studies that involved 453 U.S. adults to understand the extent that what they call “Pphubbing” — partner phone snubbing, or the extent to which people use, or are distracted by, their phone while with their significant other — causes relationship issues.
In the first study, participants created a nine-item scale of common smartphone behaviors that they perceived as a form of snubbing, such as “my partner places his or her cell phone where they can see it when we are together” and “my partner uses his or her cell phone when we are out together.” Sound familiar?
The second study asked participants to respond to the Pphubbing scale based on their own relationship. Nearly half of respondents reported being Pphubbed and more than one in five claimed this behavior led to rifts or discord in their relationship. The increased conflict results in people being less satisfied with their relationships.
“In everyday interactions with significant others, people often assume that momentary distractions by their cell phones are not a big deal,” David said. “However, our findings suggest that the more often a couple’s time spent together is interrupted by one individual attending to his/her cellphone, the less likely it is that the other individual is satisfied in the overall relationship.”
Pphubbing also has an indirect effect on personal wellbeing. Reduced satisfaction with a relationship leads people to feel less satisfied with their lives overall, ultimately resulting in higher levels of depression, the researchers say. More than one third of the participants in the studies reported feeling depressed at least some of the time.
So the next time you’re with your significant other, you have a choice to make — though for at least some people, the choice is less than obvious. A recent survey by Motorola found that 15 percent of people would rather forego seeing their significant other than give up their phone for a weekend.