Nomophobia – Psychopathology and lifestyle
In the last decade the daily use of the smartphone has grown exponentially: according to the Pew Research Center (2019), the majority of Americans (81%) and 96% of young adults (18-29) are owners of at least one smartphone.
Despite the advantages and conveniences that smartphones provide, when their use becomes excessive, they can negatively impact people’s lifestyle, leading to an addiction that can have physical, psychological, behavioral, social and emotional effects (Gezgin & Çakir, 2016).
In particular, excessive use of the smartphone can cause nomophobia (“no phone phobia”): that is, the anxiety, discomfort and stress caused to the person when he does not have his smartphone available (King, 2013).
Being an emerging field, the existing literature (Kriswanto et al., 2018; Nath, 2018; Shen et al., 2020) – which although indicates a positive correlation between nomophobia and health problems – is still limited. In a recent study (Gonçalves et al., 2020) it was decided to investigate the relationship between nomophobia, lifestyle and psychic symptoms. To do this, 495 students of the University of Braga (Portugal), aged between 18 and 14, were recruited, with the sole inclusion criterion of owning a smartphone.
The participants in the research underwent the following tests: the Nomophobia Questionnaire (NMP-Q; Yildirim & Correia, 2015) for the determination of the level of nomophobia; the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI; Derogatis & Melisaratos, 1983) for the self-report evaluation of psychic symptomatology; the FANTASTIC Lifestyle questionnaire (Wilson et al., 1984) for the evaluation of individual habits.
The results of the study revealed a positive correlation between nomophobia and psychopathological symptoms: specifically, nomophobia was associated with somatization symptoms, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, interpersonal sensitivity, anxious symptoms, depressive symptoms, hostility, paranoid ideation and psychoticism. In addition, interpersonal sensitivity and obsessive-compulsive symptoms – as well as the number of hours of use per day of the smartphone – have been identified as strong predictors of nomophobia, as already confirmed in the literature regarding obsessive-compulsive symptoms (Lee et al. , 2018).
Nomophobia has proven itself independent of the gender or age of people and, surprisingly, also of lifestyle, suggesting the pervasiveness of the role that the smartphone has now occupied in the lives of young people – at least in Portugal.
Protective factors have been found in higher education levels and better relationships with family and friends, in addition to increased physical activity.
Further research will be needed in the future to better investigate a phenomenon that is still in its infancy, just as it will be necessary to invest in education for a healthy use of smartphones.