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Put down that phone! Study says ‘phubbing’ leads to depression, arguments

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(Oct. 2, 2015) – You know you’ve done it. There’s a lull in the conversation, you go to your phone and start scrolling through Facebook or Twitter. Meantime, your significant other sits across from you, feeling ignored.

The phenomenon of “phone snubbing,” also called “phubbing,” can have a tremendous negative effect on relationships, according to researchers at Baylor University. Their study shows phubbing can have dire consequences on relationships and overall happiness.

“What we discovered was that when someone perceived that their partner phubbed them, this created conflict and led to lower levels of reported relationship satisfaction,” James Roberts, a co-author of the study, said in a statement. “These lower levels of relationship satisfaction, in turn, led to lower levels of life satisfaction and, ultimately, higher levels of depression.”

The study included a pair of surveys. The first one asked more than 300 adults to develop a list of behaviors they considered “snubbing” by their partners. The survey helped them identify a nine-point scale of smartphone behaviors identified as “phubbing.”

According to the survey, those behaviors included:

  • My partner places his or her cellphone where they can see it when we are together
  • My partner keeps his or her cellphone in their hand when he or she is with me
  • My partner glances at his/her cellphone when talking to me
  • If there is a lull in our conversation, my partner will check his or her cellphone

A second survey of 145 adults used the scale established in the first survey to measure phubbing among couples. It measured cellphone conflict, relationship satisfaction and depression, among other factors.

That survey found nearly half (46.3 percent) of people reported being phubbed by their partner. Almost a quarter (22.6 percent) said phone snubbing caused conflict in their relationship—a partner was paying more attention to their phone than their significant other. More than a third (36.6) reported feeling depressed at least some of the time.

Only 32 percent said they were very satisfied with their relationship.

“Specifically, momentary distractions by one’s cellphone during time spent with a significant other likely lowers the significant other’s satisfaction with their relationship, and could lead to enhanced feelings of depression and lower well-being of that individual,” researchers said. “Thus, when spending time with one’s significant other, we encourage individuals to be cognizant of the interruptions caused by their cellphones, as these may well be harmful to their relationship.”

For more about the study, visit Baylor University’s website.