A study researching links between anxiety and mobile phone abuse has shown that highly anxious people and young people were more likely to show signs of mobile phone abuse.
Mobile phone abuse, or "nomophobia" was classed as any of the following behaviours:
- Feeling restless or uncomfortable when not using a mobile phone
- Having strong reactions to not having a phone, i.e, it being lost or left at home
- Excessive time spent using the mobile phone
- Large mobile phone bills that cause financial problems
- Problems at school and work from constant mobile phone use
- Relationship problems from constant mobile phone use
- Taking unnecessary risks such as using a mobile phone when driving, or crossing roads
The study, conducted by Dr Merlo and Dr Stone of Florida University, evaluated the mobile phone behaviour and anxiety scales of 183 participants, aged between 18 and 81.
Researchers screened participants using three scientific scales;
- Cellular Addiction Scale used to monitor levels of mobile device dependency
- State-Trait Anxiety Inventory to determine anxiety levels
- International Personality Item Pool, an additional anxiety measure.
Participants were asked to score their behaviour against various statements in order to determine whether usage was proving detrimental to:
Participants were also tested on the likelihood of using their phone even when it was dangerous to do so.
The study showed that anxiety led to addictive mobile phone behaviour. Younger participants in the study were shown to be more at risk of mobile phone abuse.
Despite the number of participants showing signs of abuse and addiction being relatively small, the study identified a direct link between anxiety and mobile phone abuse.
Anxious participants were more likely to misuse their mobile devices. Self-reported anxiety scales consistently correlated with high scores in the cellular addiction test.
Mobile phones did not prove to be a cause of anxiety in themselves but if high anxiety was present, so too were the signs of mobile phone addiction. Age was negatively correlated with scores and showed that younger people scored higher on the addiction scale.
The mobile has fast become a ubiquitous item in the modern world. Independent UK regulator Ofcom reported that in the UK alone there are 8.6 million mobile subscriptions with the figure set to double by 2016. New technology leads to new pressures as people are expected to communicate at all times; even when in bed.
People are always ‘on’; mobile phones have invaded dinner times, social spaces, the bed, the bath and even the toilet. Ofcom reports that 40% of users reported responding to a text or call in bed after it woke them and 47% use their phone in the toilet.
An understanding of the consequences for mobile phone users general well-being is not yet known however Dr Merlo reported that patients seen clinically have already shown to manage mental health symptoms through their mobile device;
“You might see a person with obsessive-compulsive disorder [OCD] who is using the phone to check things, or you might see a person with social phobia who is using the phone to avoid interaction with people.”
The researchers call for “future research to examine the mechanism by which mobile phone usage contributes to or is exasperated by anxiety.”
Despite researchers not yet being sure exactly how mobile phones increase anxiety, the study has proven that mobile usage does indeed increase anxiety levels in certain individuals. What does this mean for you? If you are already prone to anxiety, and especially if you are a young person, you need to watch that your mobile usage is in control and is not adding to your feelings of anxiety.
Tips for managing mobile phone anxiety:
- switch it off: give yourself a break from your mobile. Switch it off for a few hours. You can always respond to text messages the next day.
- alarm clock: buy a manual alarm clock and use the traditional alarm clock to wake you up instead of your mobile. You won't be troubled by text messages waking you up.
- friends: let your friends know you are having a holiday from your phone. They won't be worried or put out if they don't hear back from your straight away.
- call instead of text: texting can take up a lot of time and sometimes it's easier to just make a call.
- disconnect your email function: if you have an office job, leave the emails for work. Being constantly aware of your messages doesn't make for a restful evening.
- go for a run: running, or any aerobic activity, will help relieve stress
Just received a text? You don’t always need to reply straight away. The world won’t end if you get back to someone a little later than a nanosecond. Try the tips above to restore wellbeing in your life and get control back. You’re in charge of your life and your time, don’t be a slave to your mobile phone.
Comorbidity of Anxiety Symptoms and Cellular Phone Addiction – http://www.docstoc.com/docs/82108451/Comorbidity-of-Anxiety-Symptoms-and-Cellular-Phone-Addiction
Ofcom research - http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/market-data-research/market-data/communications-market-reports/cmr12/