Australians spend eight times as many hours per week looking at screens than with their loved ones, a new survey has found.
Respondents to the survey, conducted by R U OK?, said they spent an average of 46 hours a week looking at a screen, but just six hours with family and friends. Half of the respondents spent two hours or less with family and friends.
The suicide prevention charity surveyed 1,000 adults for the study.
Rachel Clements, a clinical psychologist on the charity’s think tank panel said the trend could be damaging.
“It definitely has an impact on mental health, in terms of low mood, ability to get through difficult situations, having someone to talk to, to debrief with,” Ms Clements said.
“Those types of relationships, if they’re strong and they’re around us, they’re big protective factors in keeping us well.
“Staying connected to people, reaching out to people and having really good relationships is a really positive thing.
“When people are disconnected, when we pull away or withdraw from others, it means that if challenges or obstacles or difficult times come our way it can make those times a little tougher to get through.”
Distance, feeling tired listed as biggest obstacles
Distance was cited as the biggest obstacle to catching up with loved ones, with 38 per cent of respondents saying that was the reason for not spending more time with loved ones.
Feeling too tired was the reason given by 28 per cent, 20 per cent said they were too busy with other activities, 19 per cent said it was due to a need to catch up on housework and 18 per cent blamed long work hours.
Ms Clements said even though catching up with loved ones was not physically difficult, many Australians are time poor.
“We’re busy, we’re doing a lot more than we’ve ever done … [so] finding that time, or really making that time, falls off the radar a lot more easily.”
She said Australians should think about how else they could use their screen time.
“It could be visiting people, just thinking about people that you haven’t connected to in a long time.
“And maybe just swapping some of the time that you might spend with your screens, and devices, and TVs, into real-time relationships.”