Category Archives: Suicide

Exploring problematic smartphone use during pandemic

Smartphones have become people’s daily companions and an integral part of our lives and interactions with information and other people. Through mobile Internet access, smartphones allow quick access and provide up-to-date news around the globe and in the life of family and friends.  In addition to the active online interaction, one can passively observe the online behavior of others by checking their updates and depending on privacy settings, we can track when our friends are online, and whether they have read our recent messages. 

Essentially “smartphones not only satisfy our need for belonging; they also can contribute to the satisfaction of another important human need—the sense of control.” Previous research has demonstrated that smartphone use has significantly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. While smartphones can enhance daily routines and social connection, studies has also shown that smartphone use can become problematic and negatively affect relationships, work, and mental or physical health. A more complete understanding of factors that may contribute to problematic smartphone use (PSU) could help inform efforts to prevent and manage such behavior.

To provide new insights, researchers from the University of Bochum in Germany conducted an online survey of 516 smartphone users aged 18 and over in Germany in April and May of 2021. The survey included questions to evaluate self-reported smartphone use as well as sense of control, fear of missing out, and repetitive negative thinking—three factors that the researchers hypothesized could contribute to problematic smartphone use, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Statistical analysis of the survey results found that those individuals who reported experiencing low sense of control, fear of missing out, and repetitive negative thinking,and indeed, all were associated with greater severity of problematic smartphone use.

Moderating effect of repetitive negative thinking on the connection between fear of missing out and problematic smartphone use (N = 516).

While the findings do not prove causation, the statistical analysis also suggested possible interactions between the four factors. For one, fear of missing out may be a key mechanism by which low sense of control could lead to problematic smartphone use. Meanwhile, a higher degree of repetitive negative thinking was associated with a stronger relationship between fear of missing out and problematic smartphone use.

The sample was comprised of mostly female and rather young participants; the authors suggest that the study should be replicated in more age and gender balanced samples from other countries, to ensure the results are generalizable to other populations. Furthermore, the study was conducted during the pandemic when participants’ usual daily routines may have been disrupted, possibly affecting the participants’ sense of control. Nonetheless, the findings are in line with the hypothesis that loss of control—as experienced by some during the pandemic—could boost the risk of problematic smartphone use.

Source: Brailovskaia J, Stirnberg J, Rozgonjuk D, Margraf J, Elhai JD (2021) From low sense of control to problematic smartphone use severity during Covid-19 outbreak: The mediating role of fear of missing out and the moderating role of repetitive negative thinking. PLoS ONE 16(12): e0261023. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0261023

FCC Votes to Allow Texting ‘988’ to Reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Beginning July 2022

On July 16, 2020, the FCC adopted rules to establish 988 as the new, nationwide, easy-to-remember 3-digit phone number for Americans in crisis to connect with suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors.

Texting will be able to access suicide hotline help

This week, U.S. communications regulators will require that phone companies allow people to text as well as call a new “988” number for the suicide-prevention hotline. In recognition of the changing trend in technology use by youth, texting 988 will also be a way to reach the hotline. This would also benefit those who are deaf, have hearing loss or speech disabilities.

According to FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, “For millions of us, especially young people and those with disabilities — they are more likely to text than they are to call when they are in crisis. The bottom line is it should not matter when you make a voice call or send a text message, because we should connect people in crisis to the resources they need, no matter how they communicate.”

Currently, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline uses a 10-digit number, 800-273-TALK (8255), which routes calls to about 170 crisis centers. Phone companies have until July 2022 to implement the 988 number for both calling and texting. The FCC said Thursday that the country’s largest cellphone companies already support calling 988. The implementation of a three-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline comes as suicide is a growing public health problem in the United States, with risk factors compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is estimated that nearly 6,000 Americans call the Lifeline on an average day. The most recent report (2020) by the National Center for Health Statistics, describes more than 45,000 suicide deaths in the US. While there was an overall decrease in suicides by 3% from 2019 to 2020 — suicide rates increased for non-Hispanic Black, non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaska Native, and Hispanic men, according to the NCHS report

Sources:

FCC News

FCC Report and Order

NCHS suicide report 2020

988 Fact Sheet: [ English | Spanish ]