Late Night Cell Phone Use May Lead to Suicidal Thoughts in Teens, Study Says

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A new study out of Japan suggests that young people that use cell phones late at night - specifically, those that text and use smartphone apps while in bed - may be more likely than their peers to have suicidal thoughts.

The study, which will be published in the October edition of The Journal of Pediatric Psychology, examined 17,920 adolescents using questionnaires that assessed their nighttime mobile phone habits. According to the researchers, young people with heavy “after-hours” mobile phone use demonstrated poorer mental health than their classmates; controlling for total sleep hours and the possible influence of other factors, such as alcohol and drug use, the study indicates that young people that used mobile phones late at night displayed “significant associations” with both self-injuries and suicidal thoughts. 

Although researchers noted an apparent connection between depression and suicide ideation and late night mobile phone use for both early and late adolescents, the study suggests that a connection between after-hours phone use and sleep deprivation was only associated with younger adolescents. 

Previous studies have made ties between sleep deprivation and cell phone use as potential factors in suicide ideation for young people. A study published in 2011 in the Journal of Psychiatric Research suggested a connection between sleeping disorders and elevated suicide attempts for teenagers, while a study conducted earlier this year by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lighting Research Center suggests that electronic devices with backlit displays - such as cell phones - suppresses melatonin, which may lead to sleep deprivation in teenagers.