MOBILE phones can damage your relationship even when they are switched off, according to research.

Two studies found that people felt less positive towards each other if a mobile was visible during a conversation.

Researchers at Essex University concluded that mobile phones encourage thoughts about wider social networks and reduce the level of empathy normally present in a face-to-face conversation.

“In both studies we found evidence that mobiles can have negative effects on closeness, connection, and conversation quality,” said researcher Andrew Przybylski.

The study concluded: “These results demonstrate that the presence of mobile phones can interfere with human relationships, an effect that is most clear when individuals are discussing personally meaningful topics.”