Researchers of the Malaga University (UMA) have carried out a study on the Relationship between ‘psychological distress’ and mobile phone addiction in adolescents, and have reached the conclusion of how emotional intelligence becomes a protective factor in young people who suffer from anxiety, depression or stress.
The problematic mobile use, which includes addictive, antisocial or dangerous behaviors, has been recognized as a public health problem that is especially frequent among the adolescent population (between 10% and 30%), according to a report issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) .
Going deeper into this phenomenon, UMA researchers have analyzed the relationship between rumination – maladaptive response in which the person continually thinks about what causes discomfort – and the emotional intelligence -ability to recognize emotions, understand them and manage them effectively- with smartphone addiction.
To do this, a sample of 1,882 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 (54% girls and 46% boys) from the province of Malaga was used.
Another key concept for the analysis is the ‘psychological distress‘, that is, “high levels of discomfort, characterized by symptoms of stress, anxiety and/or depression”, according to the researcher Christiane Arrivillaga, co-author of this study with Natalio Extremera and Lourdes Rey.
The research, published in the journal «Journal of Affective Disorders», considers different variables: first, it analyzes whether psychological distress is related to a conflictive use of the mobile; second, whether rumination can act as a mechanism that helps explain this relationship; and thirdly, if emotional intelligence contributes to cushioning this effect.
Rumination and negative situations
The research focuses on providing evidence on the role played by positive psychological resources in well-being. “The results indicated that the more anxious, depressed and/or stressed an adolescent was, the greater the probability that he/she would use the mobile phone excessively. On the other hand, it was found that at least part of this relationship between mental health and problematic smartphone use is explained by the fact that the person ruminates as a way of coping with negative situations”, says Arrivillaga.
Emotional intelligence as a protector
Faced with these findings, researchers have also found the positive effect of emotional intelligence, capable of cushioning psychological distress. In this way, the results of the study suggest that adolescents with a high level of emotional intelligence who suffer from anxiety, depression or stress and tend to ruminate as a way of coping with these feelings, do not usually use the mobile phone in a problematic way.
“Emotional intelligence is a resource that can be trained, so implementing prevention programs that teach adolescents about their emotions and how to manage them can be an effective strategy to help them better cope with negative situations in their lives and, specifically, not to develop a problematic use of the ‘smartphone'”, concludes the researcher.