Cell Phone Use and Psychological Correlates: An Explorative Study

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Dr. Elaine Long


Cellular phone technology has experienced extraordinary growth in popularity and availability. No longer are cell phones a status symbol, or a tool for the elite business man or women, but an essential part of everyday communication between significant others, friends, family and loved ones, and coworkers. Little is known about the effects of the excessive use of cell phones; has it made lives better, or has it become detrimental to the social nature of human beings? To help improve knowledge in this area, an explorative, cross-sectional study of 130 Boise State University students was conducted using a constructed survey instrument. This survey consisted of fifteen questions that established demographic data, cell phone use, sleeping habits, and the degree of depression and stress felt by the participant. Convenience sampling techniques were used to disperse the 130 surveys. Analysis of the survey was performed using excel. Of the 130 participants in the study, 23.8% of the respondents were male, and 63.1% were female, and 13.1% did not answer. The vast majority of the respondents owned cellular phones (127) and 72.3% fell within the age range of 18-30 years of age. Evaluation of cellular phone use amongst users, and duration of sleep and feelings of stress showed strong correlations. For example, as cellular phone use increased so did the participants experienced stress (r=0.936). Also, the study found that sleep per night decreased as cellular phone use increased (r=-0.905). There was no statistical significance found in text messaging use and stated levels of sleep and experienced stress. The relationship between cellular phone use and stated feelings of depression failed to show significance. Lastly, the phenomenon commonly known as a “phantom ring”, which is defined as false auditory or physical sensation of a cell phone ring experienced by cell phone users, was assessed in the questionnaire. 71% of users had experienced phantom rings; however, there was no significant statistical relationship between the experienced phenomenon and amount of cellular phone use. In conclusion, there were statistical relationships between increased cellular phone use and experienced stress and sleep disturbances in the sample population. However, this sample may not be representative of the total population and selection bias may present. This survey does not intend to establish a cause and effect relationship, only to assess existing relationships between cellular phone use and psychological problems such as stress and depression. Since the survey instrument used was constructed for the purpose of this study and has not been tested for legitimacy, it is possible that results may not be valid. Additional research, possibly with a larger population, is needed to further the understanding of possible psychological correlations with excessive cell phone use. This study was reviewed and approved by the Boise State University Human Subjects Research and Institutional Review Board # EX 193-10-020.

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