Cellphones harm relationships and lead to depression: Study

Cellphones harm relationships and lead to depression: StudyNew research from Baylor University Hankamer School of Business has uncovered that not only are cellphones damaging to relationships, but they can lead to depression as well.

The study, published in Computers in Human Behavior, is called “My life has become a major distraction from my cell phone: Partner phubbing and relationship satisfaction among romantic partners.”


Two separate surveys were completed to achieve their findings. In total 453 Americans answered questions to determine the effects of “Pphubbing” – partner phone snubbing. The term refers to the level at which a person is distracted by their cellphone in the company of their partner.

Co-author James A. Roberts, Ph.D. said, “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. These lower levels of relationship satisfaction, in turn, led to lower levels of life satisfaction and, ultimately, higher levels of depression.”

Results from the first survey allowed researchers to create a “Partner Phubbing Scale” which identified common behaviors, including:

  • 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.

The second survey was given to romantic couples based on the Pphubbing scale. Areas of conflict, relationship satisfaction, depression and interpersonal attachment style were also measured.

Results of the survey revealed:

  • 46.3 percent of the respondents reported being phubbed by their partner
  • 22.6 percent said this Pphubbing caused conflict in their relationships
  • 36.6 percent reported feeling depressed at least some of the time

Co-author and assistant professor of marketing Meredith David, Ph. D. said, “In everyday interactions with significant others, people often assume that momentary distractions by their cell phones are not a big deal. However, our findings suggest that the more often a couple’s time spent together is interrupted by one individual attending to his/her cellphone, the less likely it is that the other individual is satisfied in the overall relationship.”

She added, “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. 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.”


Roberts outlined that those with anxious attachment styles were more likely to become bothered with cellphone use. Furthermore, lower levels of relationship satisfaction, in large part due to Pphubbing, also created lower satisfaction in one’s life, thus resulting in higher levels of depression.

Roberts concluded, “When you think about the results, they are astounding. Something as common as cellphone use can undermine the bedrock of our happiness – our relationships with our romantic partners.”


Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.