SAN FRANCISCO – Adolescents who overuse their smartphones are at greater risk for more severe psychopathologies, thus psychiatrists should screen for smartphone addiction as well as Internet/computer addiction, Jonghun Lee, MD, PhD, said here.
Lee, a professor of psychiatry at Catholic University of Daegu, School of Medicine, South Korea, said smartphone usage has “spread in our life very quickly,” which he demonstrated by reporting on data from the National Internet Development Agency in Korea. In November 2009, there were 470,000 smartphone users. By December 2012, there were almost 33 million smartphone users.
According to the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, 6.51% of adolescents responded that they were affected by excessive use of smartphones.
Lee said the various convenient functions and portability of smartphones are the main contributing factors to excessive use.
He noted that there have been various reports that have made the connection between excessive smartphone use and depression and cyber bullying, among other problems. The aim of Lee's study was to determine if the mental health of an adolescent as a result of excessive smartphone use could be affected as much as Internet and computer use.
Lee presented the study results of 195 adolescents who were divided into four groups based upon their smartphone and computer use. Using two diagnostic surveys, he analyzed 11 symptoms that have been associated with smartphone overuse: withdrawal, somatic symptoms, depression/anxiety, thought problems, attention problems, delinquency and aggression.
“Our results showed that the more addicted they were, the more severe their psychopathologies were possible, regardless of addiction patterns,” Lee said. “The number of adolescents who are addicted to smartphones must be increasing, as the popularization of smartphones is an inevitable social trend.”
Lee pointed out the limitations of the study, saying that the adolescents’ psychopathologies were self-reported and that there is no standardized smartphone addiction scale; however, he still suggested that psychiatrists screen adolescents for excessive smartphone use as they do for excessive computer and Internet use.
Disclosure: Lee reports no conflicts of interest.