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‘Smartphone addiction is linked to stress, depression, anxiety'
  • By Constance Williams
  • Published 2017.11.03 17:47
  • Updated 2017.11.03 17:47
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A research team led by Professor Min Kyung-bok of Seoul National University College of Medicine has confirmed that smartphone-addicted college students use their phone twice as much as ordinary people if they have stress, depression or anxiety.

In today’s world, seeing people glued to their phone has become such a norm that millennials have come up with a new word called “smombie”-- a combined word from “smartphone” and “zombie” -- for pedestrians, who amble without paying attention to their surroundings, their head bent down to stare at their smartphone.

Every year, smartphone addicts are on the rise, but the social awareness on the adverse health effects of overusing of smartphones is still lacking. Researchers have emphasized that smartphones are a necessity of life, but that many people are at risk of overuse and that social concerns and policy efforts are essential for prevention.

Research suggests that media use has become such a significant part of student life that it is “invisible,” and students do not necessarily realize their level of dependence on their cellphones. Experts have pointed to psychology, social factors, depression, and stress as risk factors.

Professor Min Kyung-bok

According to SAPS (Smartphone Addiction Scale) survey conducted by the National Information Society Agency (NIA) last year, 30.6 percent of adolescents and 16.1 percent of adults are addicted to smartphones.

The team surveyed 608 college students about the overuse of smartphones, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and subjective health perceptions. It also analyzed four factors -- daily living disability, virtual world orientation, withdrawal and tolerance, including mental anxiety and individual health.

According to the results of the study, the risk of overuse of smartphones was 2.19 times for those who had high levels of stress, 1.91 times for those who experienced depression and anxiety during the past year, and 2.24 times for those who suffered suicidal thoughts. Also, the group that perceived their health as bad showed 1.98 times higher risk of overuse, and the group with the lowest score of subjective health status (EQ-VAS) was 2.14 times higher than the group with high scores.

Psychosomatic symptoms, such as stress, can affect brain function and impair self-control and impulse control. Hormonal changes can also affect the secretion of neurotransmitters in the cerebral region involved in the cerebral compensation circuit, leading to the overuse of the smartphone, the researchers said.

Previous studies suggested that a typical smartphone addiction behavioral disorder resulted from the same mechanism of alcohol and drugs and that the risks are the same.

"In addition to social psychological factors, suicidal thoughts, which may be extreme due to anxiety and persistent stress, also appear to be a risk factor from the overuse of smartphones,” Professor Min said. “We have also found that people who perceive that their health is bad tend to use phones excessively.”


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