Medical News

40% of university students found to be addicted to their smartphone, study says

A study out of King’s College London found that out of 1,043 university students (aged 18-30 years old), nearly 40% of them were addicted to their smartphone. Additionally, of the nearly 40% addicted to their smartphone, almost 70% of them reported regular poor sleep.

The research group set parameters defining those addicted as participants who used their smartphones for more than 20% of the day, or about 5 hours per day, and self-reported as feeling distressed when out of arms reach of their smartphone.

The data shows that out of the 1,043 participants, 406 reported smartphone addiction (38.9%). A large proportion of participants disclosed poor sleep (61.6%), and in those with smartphone addiction, 68.7% had poor sleep quality, compared to 57.1% of those without. These results show a statistically significant increase in poor sleep quality with those who are reportedly addicted to their smartphone.

Many researchers believe the recent “stay-at-home” orders have significantly contributed to increases in smartphone addiction.

However, according to the study, “smartphone addiction was associated with poor sleep, independent of duration of usage, indicating that length of time should not be used as a proxy for harmful usage.”

Dr. Bob Patton, lecturer in Clinical Psychology & lead for the Drugs, Alcohol & Addictive Behaviors Research Group, responded to the study published in, Frontiers in Psychology, saying, “The study makes an important observation that it is the consequences rather than the duration of phone use that is linked to both related harm and reduced sleep quality, which could help clinicians to identify those who may need further help and support.”

“As the authors point out, this is a cross-sectional study, and as such cannot lead to any firm conclusions about phone usage as the cause of reduced sleep quality, it does however provide some compelling evidence that the nature of smart phone usage and its related consequences are important considerations in addressing the emerging phenomenon of ‘Smartphone addiction’.”

A published study from July 2020 observed this same phenomenon regarding smartphone use and poor sleep quality in younger children (aged 5-8 years old). Excessive smartphone use was related to shorter total sleep time in children. Use of a smartphone was also associated with significant reductions in the quality of sleep in younger children.

Mack Hagood, Professor of Media, Journalism & Film at Miami University, conducts research focusing on digital media. He suggests that if the average university student continues with their current pace, they will have spent 19 years on their phones by the end of their lives.

“It actually winds up kind of taking control of your life, making me less happy and less productive,” said Hagood. “The solution to this problem is not to throw away the phone but ensure that the apps people have downloaded are intentional and serve a purpose.”

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