Avid Cellphone Use by College Kids Tied to Anxiety, Lower Grades

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Posted December 16, 2013

Ever feel a little addicted to your cellphone?

A new study suggests that college students who can’t keep their hands off their mobile devices — “high-frequency cellphone users” — report higher levels of anxiety, less satisfaction with life and lower grades than peers who use their cellphones less frequently.

If you’re not college age, you’re not off the hook. The researchers said the results may apply to people of all ages who have grown accustomed to using cellphones regularly, day and night.

“People need to make a conscious decision to unplug from the constant barrage of electronic media and pursue something else,” said Jacob Barkley, a study co-author and associate professor at Kent State University. “There could be a substantial anxiety benefit.”

But that’s easier said than done, he noted, especially among students who are accustomed to being in constant communication with their friends. “The problem is that the device is always in your pocket,” Barkley said.

The researchers became interested in the question of anxiety and productivity when they were doing a study, published in July, which found that heavy cellphone use was associated with lower levels of fitness. Issues related to anxiety seemed to be associated with those who used the mobile device the most.

For this study, published online and in the upcoming February issue of Computers in Human Behavior, the researchers surveyed about 500 male and female students at Kent State University. The study authors captured cellphone and texting use, and used established questionnaires about anxiety and life satisfaction, or happiness.

Participants, who were equally distributed by year in college, allowed the investigators to access their official university records to obtain their cumulative college grade point average (GPA). The students represented 82 different fields of study.

Questions examining cellphone use asked students to estimate the total amount of time they spent using their mobile phone each day, including calling, texting, using Facebook, checking email, sending photos, gaming, surfing the Internet, watching videos, and tapping all other uses driven by apps and software. Time listening to music was excluded.

On average, students reported spending 279 minutes — almost five hours — a day using their cellphones and sending 77 text messages a day.

The researchers said this is the first study to link cellphone use with a validated measure of anxiety with a wide range of cellphone users. Within this sample of typical college students, as cellphone use increased, so did anxiety.

Read more at: MedlinePlus

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