0430 GMT April 22, 2021
A study of 1,043 students aged 18-30 at King’s College London found that 406 (38.9 percent) displayed symptoms of smartphone addiction, as defined by a clinical tool devised to diagnose the problem, theguardian.com reported.
More than two-thirds (68.7 percent) of the addicts had trouble sleeping, compared with 57.1 percent of those who were not addicted to their device. Students who used their phone after midnight or for four or more hours a day were most likely to be at high risk of displaying addictive use of their device.
Participants were judged to be addicts if they could not control how long they spent on their phone, felt distressed when they could not access their phone, or neglected other more meaningful parts of their life because they were busy on their device.
Academics found that the youngest participants in the study were most likely to be addicted, while Asian (45.5 percent), black (41.9 percent) and mixed-race (38 percent) students were more likely than white (32.3 percent) ones to be deemed an addict.
The findings, published in the journal ‘Frontiers in Psychiatry’, have prompted renewed concern about the close association between smartphone use and the difficulty some users can have in getting a good night’s sleep.
“Our study provides further support to the growing body of evidence that smartphone ‘addiction’ has a negative impact on sleep”, said Dr. Ben Carter, a coauthor of the paper and senior lecturer at the Institute of Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience at King’s.
“The association is still significant even after adjusting for daily screen time use.”
The authors say that while their findings show that the length of time someone spends every day using their device is a significant predictor of addiction, other factors are involved too. For example, 20.3 percent of those who used their phone for two hours a day or less were judged to be addicted. However, 53.9 percent of those who used it for more than five hours were addicted.
The time at which someone put their phone down for the last time before going to sleep was important too. “Of those that stopped using their device more than an hour before bedtime, 23.8 percent exhibited addiction, compared to 42 percent of those stopping less than 30 minutes before bedtime,” the paper reported.
Among those under 21 in the study, 42.2 percent were found to be addicted, compared with 34.2 percent of those aged 22-25 and 28 percent of those aged 26 or over.
Dr. Bernadka Dubicka, the chair of the faculty of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said, “The negative impact of smartphone use on sleep is very concerning from a mental health perspective. Many young people have struggled with their sleep and mental health during this pandemic and poor quality or insufficient sleep can be both a symptom and a cause of mental health problems.
“Regular smartphone use before bed, which may be seen in ‘smartphone addiction’, can significantly affect sleep. Keeping a good sleep routine is vital for young people’s health and wellbeing and young people should try to limit their smartphone use late at night, for example, by charging their phone in a different room to their bedroom.”