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Students showing signs of phone addiction

11:00pm Sunday 31st August 2014 content supplied byNHS Choices

"Students spend up to 10 hours a day on their mobile phones," the Mail Online reports. The results of a US study suggest that some young people have developed an addiction to their phone.

Mobile or "cell" phone addiction is the habitual drive or compulsion to continue to use a mobile phone, despite its negative impact on one's wellbeing.

The authors of a new study suggest that this can occur when a mobile phone user reaches a "tipping point", where they can no longer control their phone use. Potential negative consequences include dangerous activities, such as texting while driving.

This latest study surveyed mobile phone use and addiction in a sample of 164 US students.

The students reported spending nearly nine hours a day on their mobile phones. There was a significant difference in the amount of time male and female students spent on their phones, with women spending around 150 minutes more a day using the device.

Common activities included texting, sending emails, surfing the internet, checking Facebook and using other social media apps, such as Instagram and Pinterest.

It was also found that women spent a lot more time texting than men, and were more likely to report feeling agitated when their phone was out of sight or their battery was nearly dead. Men spent more time than women playing games.

Using Instagram and Pinterest, and using the phone to listen to music, as well as the number of calls made and the number of texts sent, were positively associated with (increased risk of) phone addiction.

However, the study did not prove that any of these activities can cause mobile phone addiction.

 

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from Baylor University and Xavier University in the US, and the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya in Spain. No financial support was received.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Behavioural Addictions and has been published on an open-access basis, meaning it is free to read online.

The results of the study were well-reported by the Mail.

 

What kind of research was this?

This was a cross-sectional study that aimed to investigate which mobile phone activities are most closely associated with phone addiction in young adults, and whether there are differences between males and females.

As it is a cross-sectional study, it cannot show causation - that is, that the activities undertaken cause a person to become addicted to their mobile phone.

 

What did the research involve?

164 college undergraduates in Texas aged between 19 and 22 years old completed an online survey.

To measure mobile phone addiction, people were asked to score how much they agreed with the following statements (1=strongly disagree; 7=strongly agree):

  • I get agitated when my phone is not in sight.
  • I get nervous when my phone's battery is almost exhausted.
  • I spend more time than I should on my phone.
  • I find that I am spending more and more time on my phone.

People were also asked how much time they spent on 24 different mobile phone activities a day, including:

  • calling, texting and emailing
  • using social media applications
  • playing games
  • taking photos
  • listening to music

Finally, they were asked how many calls they made, and how many texts and emails they sent a day.

 

What were the basic results?

On average, the undergraduates spent 527.6 minutes (almost nine hours) a day on their phones. Female students reported spending significantly more time on their phone than male students.

The students spent the most time texting (94.6 minutes per day), sending emails (48.5 minutes), checking Facebook (38.6 minutes), surfing the Internet (34.4 minutes) and listening to their iPods (26.9 minutes). There were significant differences between the amount of time male and female students reported performing different mobile phone activities. Women spent more time than men texting, emailing, taking pictures, using a calendar, using a clock, on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, while men spent more time than women playing games.

The study identified activities that were significantly associated with mobile phone addiction. Instagram, Pinterest and using an iPod application, as well as the number of calls made and the number of texts sent, were positively associated with (increased the risk of) mobile phone addiction when males and females were analysed together. Time spent on "other" applications was negatively associated with (reduced the risk of) phone addiction.

However, there were differences between males and females.

For males, time spent sending emails, reading books and the Bible, as well as visiting Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, in addition to the number of calls made and the number of texts sent, were positively associated with mobile phone addiction. In contrast, time spent placing calls, using the phone as a clock, visiting Amazon and "other" applications were negatively associated with phone addiction.

For females, time spent on Pinterest, Instagram, using an iPod application, Amazon and the number of calls made were all positively associated with mobile phone addiction. In contrast, time spent using the Bible application, Twitter, Pandora/Spotify and an iTunes application were negatively associated with phone addiction.

 

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers concluded that mobile phone addiction amongst participants was largely driven by a desire to connect socially. However, the activities found to be associated with phone addiction differed between males and females.

 

Conclusion

This study found that a sample of college students in the US reported spending nearly nine hours a day on their mobile phones, although there was a significant difference between male and female students. There were also differences in the amount of time male and female students spent performing various activities.

The study has identified some activities associated with mobile phone addiction, with differences seen between male and female students.

However, due to the study design, it cannot prove that these activities caused the mobile phone addiction directly.

This study has several limitations:

  • it was performed on a sample of college students in the US, and the results of this study may not be generalisable to the population at large
  • the mobile phone addiction scale used in this study requires further evaluation
  • participants self-reported the time spent on certain activities

Mobile phones may help us connect with people all over the world, but possibly at the cost of reducing interaction with "real" people. Failure to connect with others can have an adverse effect on a person's quality of life. A 2013 study found an association between Facebook use and dissatisfaction - the more time a person spent on Facebook, the less likely they were to report feeling satisfied with their life.

Read more about how connecting with others can improve your mental health.

Analysis by Bazian. Edited by NHS ChoicesFollow Behind the Headlines on TwitterJoin the Healthy Evidence forum.

Summary

"Students spend up to 10 hours a day on their mobile phones," the Mail Online reports. The results of a US study suggest that some young people have developed an addiction to their phone.

Links to Headlines

Students 'addicted to mobile phones': Some spending up to ten hours a day texting, emailing and on social media. Mail Online, September 1 2014

Links to Science

Roberts JA, Yaya LHP, Manolis C. The invisible addiction: Cell-phone activities and addiction among male and female college students. The Journal of Behavioural Addiction. Published online August 26 2014

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