Age of First Smartphone/Tablet and Mental Wellbeing Outcomes

May 15th , 2023

There is now a well-documented trend of a progressive global decline in the mental wellbeing of each younger generation that began sometime between the years of 2010 and 2014. One prominent global change that has tracked this trend has been the advent of the smartphone which provides 24/7 access
to the Internet and has changed the cognitive and social habits of users.

Today’s 18-24-year-olds are the first generation who went through adolescence with this technology. This report looks at their mental wellbeing in relation to the age at which they first got their own smartphone or tablet to determine the cumulative impact of growing up with smartphones, a term we use going forward to mean both phones and tablets.

Key Findings:

  • Mental wellbeing consistently improved with older age of first ownership of a smartphone or tablet, with a steeper change in females.
  • Social Self, an aggregate measure of how we view ourselves and relate to others, improved most dramatically with older age of first smartphone ownership.
  • Problems with suicidal thoughts declined most steeply and significantly with older age of first smartphone ownership.

This study uses global data from 27,969 18–24-year-olds obtained between January and April 2023 through the Global Mind Project (formerly known as the Mental Health Million Project). It acquires data using the MHQ assessment that spans 47 elements covering a wide range of symptoms and mental capabilities and provides aggregate scores of mental wellbeing and its dimensions. We compared mental wellbeing scores and to the reported age of first smartphone or tablet ownership among 18-24-year-olds.

WHAT IS MENTAL WELLBEING? Mental wellbeing reflects our mental capability and functioning, as well as our ability to navigate and cope with life’s stresses. It is not the same as happiness or life satisfaction. You could, for example, be experiencing very difficult or sad circumstances in your life but nonetheless have all the capabilities to cope as best as one could, and therefore have a high level of mental wellbeing.

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Cite this report as:
Age of First Smartphone/Tablet and Mental Wellbeing Outcomes, Global Mind Project, Sapien Labs, May 15 ,2023.

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