A study conducted and co-authored by Dr. Zaheer Hussain of the psychology department of the University of Derby suggests that smartphones may act as a vehicle for health addiction. The study found that of 256 smartphone users, self-selected to participate in the study, 13 percent of them exhibited signs of addiction to their smartphones, tablets and other such mobile devices, investing an average of 3.6 hours of regular usage per day.
The participants involved in the study were pre-examined through an interview, answering questions pertaining to the habitual usage of their smartphones and other mobile devices. According to the interview, 87 percent of them indicated that social networking sites and apps were the most popular. Moreover, 52 percent indicated that instant messaging apps came second. Followed by news apps as indicated by 51 percent of the participants. Afterwards, 47 percent of the respondents justified that their regular usage of social networking websites actually improved their social relations, but nearly a quarter of that 47 percent confessed that the frequent use of their smartphones did pose obstacles in maintaining healthy communication with others they know in real life. This was due to their preoccupation with their devices while in the company of family and friends. Around 60 of the participants specified a severe distraction from their interpersonal relationships.
Dr. Hussain described that negative traits such as narcissism and neuroticism are also linked to smartphone addiction. Around 35 percent of the participants admitted to using their devices in areas where they were prohibited, feeling justified that they knew better than the authorities whom created the rules.
A prevalent preoccupation with smartphones and other mobile devices can be confirmed with strong certainty. According to statistics published by Gartner, Inc., a leading company in information technology research and advisory, smartphones sales worldwide grew 20.3 percent, to 301 million units by the end of the third financial quarter. Robert Cozza, the research director at Gartner, explained that smartphones accounted for 66 percent of the mobile phone market and projected that nine out of 10 cellular devices will be smartphones by 2018. As the sale of smartphones continues to show rapid growth, their potential risk as an engine for health addiction, as indicated by the study, may grow in proportion to sales.
For many who serve in the tech industry, the results of the academic study, co-conducted by Dr. Hussain, may already be commonly known. Numerous technology executives and venture capitalists affirm that, despite the nature of their work being primarily centered around new and cutting edge technology, of which would include mobile devices, they identify themselves as steadfast, low-tech parents concerning their own young children and teenagers. Even the late highly-regarded tech pioneer and co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, admitted in a conversation with journalist, Nick Bilton, in late 2010, to strictly limiting his children in their usage of mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, emphasizing the importance of effective communication among his family. Walter Isaacson, the author of Steve Jobs, described a typical evening in the home of Steve Jobs as him seated with his family around a long table in his kitchen, having conversations related to substantial topics such as history and books. Many personnel working in the tech industry seem to be keenly aware of the dangers of the over-consumption of mobile technology, and take care to protect their children from possibly becoming addicted. Whereas many consumers worldwide contrarily spend hours on end looking down at their smartphones and tablet screens.
Dr. Hussain suggests that while the harmful effects of addiction related to smartphones do not necessarily compare to the harmful effects of cigarettes and alcohol consumption, the purchasing of mobile devices and apps, such as Candy Crush and Flappy Bird, should come accompanied with health warnings that alert the consumer to the possibly addictive risks related to using new technological products. He asserts that he is not “anti-smartphone, but firmly believes that being unaware of the potential addiction to smartphones and other mobile devices poses detrimental health issues, such as those suggested in his study.
By De Gregory
Photo by Karlis Dambrans – Flickr License