Lead investigator Mark Becker of Michigan State University said he was surprised to find such a clear association between media multitasking and mental health problems, but he is not clear why it occurred.
"We don't know whether the media multitasking is causing symptoms of depression and social anxiety, or if it's that people who are depressed and anxious are turning to media multitasking as a form of distraction from their problems," Becker said in a statement.
Overall media use among U.S. youth increased 20 percent in the past decade, but the amount of time spent multitasking with media spiked 120 percent during that period, Becker said.
Becker and colleagues Reem Alzahabi and Christopher Hopwood surveyed 319 on how many hours per week they used two or more of the primary forms of media, which included television, music, cellphones, text messaging, computer and video games, Web surfing and others.
For the mental health survey, the researchers used well-established measures, although the results do not reflect a clinical diagnosis, Becker said.
The study was published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.