Posted on May 14, 2023
Study Out from Sapien Labs Links Age of First Smartphone to Mental Wellbeing

Washington, D.C.– A global study of 27,969 young adults out today from Sapien Labs is showing that the age at which they received their first smartphone or tablet strongly correlates with their mental health status in young adulthood. These are the key findings:

– The later the age at which these young adults first got a phone or tablet that they could carry with them in childhood, the better their mental wellbeing as adults. In particular, the dimension of mental wellbeing most improved was the Social Self, an aggregate measure of various elements such as self-confidence and the ability to relate positively to others.

– Conversely, those who got their first phone at a younger age were more likely to experience suicidal thoughts, feelings of aggression towards others and a sense of being detached from reality. These trends were stronger in females than males and consistent across all regions of the world sampled including the Core Anglosphere & W. Europe, Latin America, South Asia and Africa.

Altogether the study’s findings indicate potential long-term risks associated with giving a child a smartphone or tablet at a young age that parents, school administrators and policy makers should be aware of.

“These findings suggest that there are long term improvements in mental wellbeing for each year of delay in getting a smartphone during childhood” said Chief Scientist Tara Thiagarajan. “It’s important that we continue to study this relationship and work to develop effective policies and interventions that can support healthy mental development in the digital age to reverse the declining trends we have been tracking.”

About the study: 

This study is part of the Global Mind Project, an ongoing survey of global mental wellbeing, conducted by Sapien Labs. The project acquired data through an assessment that queries 47 aspects of mental function on a life impact scale to create an aggregate mental wellbeing score, the Mental Health Quotient or MHQ, as well as scores of various dimensions of mental function.  The assessment can be taken here. In addition, the data from this project is freely available to researchers for noncommercial purpose and access can be requested here.  The Global Mind Project also publishes the annual Mental State of the World Report which can be found here.


Supporting materials:

Report: Age of First Smartphone/Tablet and Mental Wellbeing Outcomes in Adulthood

Associated Data Tables and Statistics

High Resolution Images of Graphs