40 per cent said they find it difficult to take a break from their phone or computer at least once a day

Smartphone use causing 'separation anxiety' and ADHD

British dependence on digital devices such as smartphones and tablets is increasing, with more than one in five users admitting they suffer from ‘separation anxiety’ when they are without them.

A survey of 2,000 British adults by smoothie company Innocent found the average adult spent the equivalent of 20 weeks a year in front of a digital screen.

Some 30 per cent of those polled checked their phone at least once every 30 minutes, the survey found.

One in four Britons say they feel ‘bored’ after only an hour without their phone, while a close 23 per cent say this separation led to them feeling ‘anxious’.

The most irritating tech habit, according to 35 per cent of respondents, is having a phone at the dinner table, while 28 per cent said that checking smartphones in the middle of a face-to-face conversation was more annoying.

Four out of 10 Brits said they find it difficult to actively take a break from their phone or computer at least once a day, with over a sixth only managing to take a break for an hour or less.

Innocent’s Jamie Sterry said: "It's amazing to see how much time we spend 'connected', either online or on our phones.

"And while we don't think technology is a bad thing by any means, it is important that we don't forget to 'unplug' every so often and make sure we take a break from being constantly connected to technology."

A recent study from the University of Virginia found that the increasingly pervasive use of digital technology may be causing ADHD-like symptoms among the general population.

"Less than 10 years ago, Steve Jobs promised that smartphones 'will change everything'," said Kostadin Kushlev, who led the Virginia study .

"With the Internet in their pockets, people today are bombarded with notifications - whether from email, text messaging, social media or news apps - anywhere they go. We are seeking to better understand how this constant inflow of notifications influences our minds."

Kushlev said that recent polls have shown that as many as 95 per cent of smartphone users have used their phones during social gatherings; that seven in 10 people used their phones while working; and one in 10 admitted to checking their phones during sex.

The researchers designed a two-week experimental study and showed that when students kept their phones on ring or vibrate they reported more symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity than when they kept their phones on silent.

During the study, 221 students at the University of British Columbia - drawn from the general student population - were assigned for one week to maximise phone interruptions by keeping notification alerts on and their phones within easy reach.

During another week, participants were assigned to minimise phone interruptions by keeping alerts off and their phones away.

At the end of each week, participants completed questionnaires assessing inattention and hyperactivity. The results showed that the participants experienced significantly higher levels of inattention and hyperactivity when alerts were turned on.

The results suggest that even people who have not been diagnosed with ADHD may experience some of the disorder's symptoms, including distraction, difficulty focusing and getting bored easily when trying to focus, fidgeting, having trouble sitting still, difficulty doing quiet tasks and activities and restlessness.

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