Stress, dependency, and depression: An examination of the reinforcement effects of problematic smartphone use on perceived stress and later depression


Problematic Smartphone Use (PSU) is associated with a series of mental health issues including depression; yet, the directionality and underlying mechanisms for these associations are underdetermined. This study investigated the possible reinforcement effects of PSU on perceived stress and later depression and the moderating effect of social support on the associations between perceived stress and smartphone use and PSU. This study further explored the differential effects for separate types of smartphone use. With a sample of 222 college students, we found that PSU reinforced perceived stress especially for people with high levels of stress, and perceived stress fully mediated the association between PSU and depression. Regarding types of smartphone use, we found that perceived stress was associated with both person-to-person and social networking smartphone use. In addition, for people with low to medium levels of social support, perceived stress was linked to increased PSU via social networking smartphone use.

Bibliographic citation

Zhao, P., & Lapierre, M. A. (2020). Stress, dependency, and depression: An examination of the reinforcement effects of problematic smartphone use on perceived stress and later depression. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 14(4), Article 3. doi:


Problematic smartphone use; smartphone use; perceived stress; depression; social support

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