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Multiple Media Use Linked to Depression and Anxiety

Update Date: Dec 05, 2012 06:22 AM EST

While many people believe that multitasking may be the sign of a healthy and sharp brain, a new study suggests that multitasking in terms of media usage may be a symptom of anxiety or depression.

Researchers from the Michigan State University believe that using multiple forms of media at the same time - such as playing a computer game while watching TV - could be linked to mental disorders.

Mark Becker, lead investigator of the study, expressed surprise over finding a clear link between media multitasking and mental health problems, but says that the reason behind the same still remains unknown.  

"We don't know whether the media multitasking is causing symptoms of depression and social anxiety, or if it's that people who are depressed and anxious are turning to media multitasking as a form of distraction from their problems," said Becker, assistant professor of psychology.

Over the past 10 years, not only the overall media use, but the time spent multitasking with media has substantially increased in America, the report said.

For the study, the researchers surveyed 319 people, asking them questions pertaining to their media use and mental health. The participants were asked about how much time per week they spend using two or more of the primary forms of media, including television, music, cellphones, text messaging, computer and video games, web surfing and others.

Even though the results for mental health checkups do not reflect a clinical diagnosis, well-established measures were used by the researchers for the assessment.

Becker said more research needs to be conducted to explore the cause and effect relationship between media multitasking and depression and anxiety.

If media multitasking is causing depression and anxiety, recommendations could be made to alleviate the problem, he said. On the other hand, if depressed or anxious people are turning to media multitasking, it might actually help them deal with their problems, the report said.

"Whatever the case, it's very important information to have," Becker said. "This could have important implications for understanding how to minimize the negative impacts of increased media multitasking."

The study appears in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.

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