Scrolling through social media, texting and reading on your smartphone may seem like a restful break from work, but research has found otherwise

In a new study, Rutgers researchers found that using a mobile phone to take a break during mentally challenging tasks does not allow the brain to recharge effectively and may result in poorer performance.

As an experiment, researchers assigned 414 college undergraduates to solve challenging word puzzles.

Halfway through, some were allowed to take breaks using their mobile phone. Others took breaks with a pen and paper, or a computer while some took no break at all.

The participants who took phone breaks experienced the highest levels of mental depletion and were among the least capable of solving the puzzles afterwards.

WIN a R 2,000 Woolworths Voucher

Subscribe to our Free Daily All4Women Newsletter to enter

Their post-break efficiency and quickness was comparable to those taking no break. The number of word problems they solved after the break was slightly better than those who took no break but worse than all other participants.

Participants who took a break with their cell phone took 19% longer to do the rest of the task and solved 22% fewer problems than did those in the other break conditions combined.

How to boost your mood in 12 minutes

Smartphones affect your attention

“The act of reaching for your phone between tasks, or mid-task, is becoming more commonplace. It is important to know the costs associated with reaching for this device during every spare minute. We assume it’s no different from any other break – but the phone may carry increasing levels of distraction that make it difficult to return focused attention to work tasks,” says Terri Kurtzberg, co-author and associate professor of management and global business at Rutgers Business School.

Cell phones may have this effect because even just seeing your phone activates thoughts of checking messages, connecting with people, access to ever-refilling information and more, in ways that are different than how we use other screens like computers, and laptops,” she continued.

What social media users and drug addicts have in common

Source: Rutgers University via

Accommodation offers from

20,000 listings in 2,000 locations with 10,000 reviews.


While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.