Study: Aussies suffering from phone separation anxiety

Wednesday, 06 January, 2021

Study: Aussies suffering from phone separation anxiety

Many Australians are addicted to their smartphones in some way, and their inability to disconnect could endanger their health, according to a Monash University study. The study measured nomophobia (no mobile phone phobia) and its consequences, with 99.2% of users having some fear of being without their phone.

Additionally, 13.2% of the population recorded a severe level of nomophobia, leading to an increased risk of dependence and dangerous use. The study was first published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Researchers from BehaviourWorks Australia surveyed 2838 Australians on their psychological attachment to their phone and usage habits, and found that 43.3% of respondents spent upwards of three hours a day on their phone. The more they used their phone, the higher their level of nomophobia and the greater their risk of problematic dependent, prohibited or dangerous usage.

People aged 18 to 25 had the highest level of nomophobia, with males almost twice as likely to engage in dangerous use than females. In Australia, 84% of the population has mobile phone internet access, and there are more mobile phone subscriptions than people (109.6 per 100 habitants).

Users with nomophobia were 11.7 times more likely to have a problematic phone dependency and 10.3 times more likely to use their phone in a prohibited space, like a library, classroom or cinema. They were also 14 times more likely to use their phones while driving, cycling or walking.

PhD candidate Fareed Kaviani, lead researcher on the study, said phones have become part of our lives but should be used with caution.

“I think we have habitualised the device into our lives, on both a structural and individual level. The fear of being without one’s mobile phone may be a rational response when we have come to rely on them for staying in contact with friends and family, using the digital wallet, scanning QR codes for entry into venues, or to read shopping lists and access information,” said Kaviani.

The study revealed that mobile phones can cause friction between the digital and physical worlds. Users’ dependency on their phones for a sense of connectedness and social identity could also reduce their capacity to navigate social bonds offline.

“If your smartphone use is having a deleterious impact on the physical and/or psychological health of yourself or those around you, then that is a problem. But I think the device, if used mindfully, can be a complement to the supercomputer we already carry around in our heads,” said Kaviani.

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