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Smartphone use may affect loneliness in mothers of young children

Mothers who spend an average of 1-2 hours per day on their smartphones may feel less lonely than those who use their phones for shorter or longer periods of time, according to a study involving 523 Japanese mothers published in the open access journal BMC Woman’s Health.

Researchers at Kyoto University, Japan found that mothers who used their smartphones less than one hour per day, or not at all, reported higher levels of loneliness, as did mothers who used their smartphones 2-3 hours per day or longer. No association was found between smartphone use of 1-2 hours and higher levels of loneliness, which suggests that 1-2 hours per day may be the optimal time for young mothers to spend on their smartphones. This may also be linked to social media use.

The corresponding author Marie Mandai said: “In Japan, women with children are generally considered to be surrounded by friends and family and therefore less likely to experience loneliness. However, recently there have been concerns about loneliness in mothers raising young children. This is the first study to report on use of communication devices and social media as factors affecting loneliness among mothers raising children under the age of three.”

The authors found that mothers who used their smartphones for longer periods of time also used social media more frequently, which may indicate that the use of social media may affect perceptions of loneliness, as social media was also named as a source of information for mothers.

The authors suggest that social networking sites may be a way of addressing loneliness among - and providing information to - mothers raising young children.

The authors analysed data from a questionnaire completed by 523 mothers raising children under the age of three in Nagahama City, Japan. The survey included questions on basic characteristics such as age, marital status, education level and number of children; loneliness; social networks (both online and offline); and types of communication devices and information sources used.

The authors caution that the generalizability of the results may be limited as data was collected in only one city in Japan. Furthermore, the cross-sectional, observational nature of the study and its reliance of self-reported data mean that it does not allow for conclusions about causality between smartphone use and loneliness.

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Notes to editor:

1. Research article:
Loneliness among mothers raising children under the age of 3 years and predictors with special reference to the use of SNS: a community-based cross-sectional study.
Mandai et al. BMC Women’s Health. 2018.
DOI: 10.1186/s12905-018-0625-x

The article is available at the journal website.  

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2. BMC Women's Health is an open access, peer-reviewed journal that considers articles on all aspects of the health and wellbeing of adolescent girls and women, with a particular focus on the physical, mental, and emotional health of women in developed and developing nations. The journal welcomes submissions on women's public health issues, health behaviours, breast cancer, gynecological diseases, mental health and health promotion.

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