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Mobile phone dependence and psychological well-being among young adults.


The propagation of mobile phone has brought a miraculous change in the mode of communication. Earlier mobile phone functions were only restricted to calling and text messages, however; with the advent of technology mobile phone performs multiple functions and is termed as "smartphone". The present article has used the term 'smartphone' and 'mobile phone' interchangeably throughout the paper. Smartphone offers a fusion of various applications and features such as, camera, internet browsing, entertainment, gaming, listening music, e-mails, chatting groups, social networking sites, GPS navigation etc. As suggested by Kim, Y.lee, J.lee, Nam and Chung (2014), the smartphone is a handheld device that serves as a platform to access the services which are possible on a typical desktop computer without any temporal and spatial constrain. According to Carbonell, Obrest and Beranuy (2013) mobile phones possess a variety of gratifying factors that gives an individual sense of euphoria, entertainment, social status, identity and security etc. Ling and Bertel (2013) discussed that mobile phones are instrumental in performing various social task related to coordination as it provides both temporal and spatial flexibility to work out daily life exigencies in a better manner. It may also act as a security as it helps in managing real or imagined threats of life, provides a platform for emotional expression and promotes social relationships and interaction with parents and peers. The inclusion of smartphone use in our society has lead to different perceptions among the scholars. For example, Srivastava (2005), suggested that mobile phone "has become such an important aspect of a user's daily life that it has moved from being a mere 'technological object' to a key 'social object' (p. 111)". As a technological tool, scholars consider it as an "instantiation of the extended mind- which means that smartphones are a kind of cognitive miserliness" (Barr, Pennycook, Stolz, & Fugelsang, 2015)

This convenient mode of communication is used by individuals of all age groups; however, the reasons behind its usage pattern differ across age groups. For example, mobile phone helps working parents to mend their children while at work whereas, it helps youngsters to share their emotional feelings and get psychic support from their families (Chen & Katz, 2009). As suggested by Kim, Y. Lee, J.Lee, Nam and Chung (2014), teenagers and young adults use smartphone mainly for the purpose of entertainment; whereas, people in their thirties and forties age group use smartphone to organize their work schedules and other business related work. As suggested by Choliz (2012), teenagers find new technologies more thrilling and subsequently develop skills for its use more quickly than adults. Forgays, Hyman, & Schreiber (2014), examined the mobile phone etiquette behavior across different age groups and gender. They reported significant differences across age groups and gender regarding the perceived appropriate usage of mobile phones in different social settings. For example, male participants believed that making and attending phone calls were appropriate across all social settings as compared to females. Older participants and females showed higher adherence to not to use cell phones in restricted social settings.

Despite emerging potential benefits associated with mobile phone use, it's pervasive usage has also lead to maladaptive behaviors and other psycho-social problems such as, sleep disturbances, dependence (Sansone & Sansone, 2013), depression and anxiety (Adam & Kisler, 2013) frequently checking habit (Oulasvirta, Rattenbury, Ma, & Raita, 2012). As suggested by Bragazzi and Puente, (2014), long -term media usage may stimulate a mechanism and procedure, which could result in addictive as well as impulsive behaviors. Adams and Kisler (2013), examined the relationship of technology use with sleep duration, quality of sleep, depression, anxiety and duration of sleeplessness. Results demonstrated that excessive use of technology prior or at the beginning of sleep time predicted poor sleep quality. Furthermore, sleep disturbance due to technology use was found to linked with depression and anxiety. Similarly, According to Ha, Chin, Park, Ryu and Yu (2008), psychological problems associated with excessive mobile phone use among adolescents include depressive symptoms, higher interpersonal anxiety, and lower self-esteem. Moreover, scholars have also highlighted new sets of disorder associated with mobile phone use. For example, "nomophobia" is a disorder related with discomfort, anxiety, and anguish caused by the absence of mobile phone or internet (Braggazzi & Punente, 2014). "Textrphrenia" has been defined as an anxiety related to belief regarding receipt of a text message when in reality it is not (Verma, Rajiah, Cheang, & Barua, 2014). 'Phantom vibrations' refers to hallucinations of mobile phone vibration (Rothberg, Arora, Herman 2010). (Cheever, Rosen, Carrier, & Chavez, 2014) conducted a study to investigate whether absence of mobile phone would lead to anxiety among college students. Results of the study showed that those students who were highly dependent on their mobile phone were more anxious when the device was absent as compared to low and moderate mobile phone users. Furthermore, some researches have also demonstrated the effect of mobile phone use on academic performance of the students. For example, Junco and Cotten, (2012) conducted a study to investigate the relationship between multitasking and college grade point average (CGPA) among college students. The results demonstrated spending a large amount of time on mobile for emailing, calling and surfing social networking sites such as, facebook, was negatively related with overall CGPA. Furthermore, the study also reported that using facebook and texting while studying lowers the cognitive processing and diminish in-depth learning of students.

In the present scenario, mobile phones/smartphones have acquired en an important position in an individual's life. It provides a plethora of opportunities to individuals to put forth their emotions, opinions, desired identity, self- presentation and facilitate a need of belongingness at a wider level with certain possible risks of dependence or addiction to the mobile phones. Therefore, at one end of the continuum, smartphone helps to maintain a balance between our social and personal life, but on the other hand, it's excessive usage may cause a disruption in the ongoing task (Cutrell, Czerwinski, & Horvitz, 2001; Kushlev, Proulx, & Dunn, 2016). In the last decade, scholars have started recognizing the impacts of mobile phones on various psycho-social aspects of individual's life. There is also a paucity of research work addressing the impact of mobile phone dependence on the psychological well-being.

According to Jung's theory psychological well-being can be seen as a search for a equilibrium between the two opposite forces of introversion and extroversion in one's personality (Hall, Lindsey & Campbell, 2002). Roger proposed two sub types of self: real self and ideal self and suggested that a significant congruence between these two selves leads to greater well-being (Hall, Lindsey & Campbell, 2002). According to Rodman and Fry (2009), "descriptions of well-being define a state of equilibrium. Such equilibrium is determined as a measure of social connectedness" (p.10). In other words, a state of psychological well-being can be construed as the state of internal balance where social connectedness may play an important role. It can be further reasoned that usage of mobile phone and other technology may act as a medium to achieve this equilibrium as it provide ample opportunity for social connectedness and other things. For example, Maldonado, Mora, Garcia, & Edipo, (2001) analyzed computer mediated messages of both extroverts and introverts and reported that there were no difference in number of messages send by both the personality types. Moreover, the nature and tone of introvert participants' messages were similar to extroverted ones. Thus, in this context, the present study aims to explore the relationship between mobile phone dependence and psychological wellbeing among young adults. The term 'psychological well-being' is a complex term. Psychological well-being has been defined as, "a dynamic concept that includes subjective, social, and psychological dimensions as well as health-related behaviors" (Tamara & Marine, 2012, p.73). Ryff (1989) has described six dimensions of psychological wellbeing: self acceptance, positive relations with others, environmental mastery, autonomy, purpose in life and personal growth. The present study has used Ryff and Singer's (1998) model of psychological wellbeing.


Participants: The sample of the present study consisted of 243 young students pursuing bachelor of technology (B.Tech) from one of the leading engineering institutes of Jaipur (Rajasthan), India. The sample comprised of 76 females and 167 males between age group of 19-22 years.

Materials and Procedure: Following questionnaires were used in the present study:

Mobile Phone Dependence: A preliminary informal interaction was conducted with few participants to understand the major usage of mobile phones among young population. Security, enhancement of self image among peers, access to internet, using mobile phone to kill free time, checking messages, chatting were resulted as major factors for mobile phone usage. Alongside, exhaustive literature review was done to select appropriate measure to assess mobile phone dependence. Two measures: Test of Mobile Phone Dependence (TMD, Choilz, 2012) and Mobile Phone Dependence Questionnaire (MPDQ, Toda, Monden, Kubo & Morimoto, 2006) were selected for further review. The TMD is a 22 item scale that measure three dimensions of mobile phone dependence: abstinence, lack of control and tolerance/ interference. MPDQ comprises of 20 items scale. The items of TMD and MPDQ were carefully reviewed by the researchers in the context of the present study. Finally, 15 items from TMD and 10 items from MPDQ were selected to assess mobile phone dependence. In addition, seven self constructed items based on self-image, conflict related issues, brand, security were also included in the final questionnaire. Before the final administration of the questionnaire, the items of mobile phone dependence questionnaire were reviewed by few participants. This exercise helped in assuring item relevancy and clarity. Five point likert scale (strongly disagree to strongly agree) was used to collect the responses of the participants Factor analysis was used on the items of mobile phone dependence that resulted in 8 factors. The factors retained for further analysis were as follows: overindulgence (Chronbach's [alpha] =.68), emotional dependence (Chronbach's [alpha] =.66), killing boredom (Chronbach's [alpha] =.71), expenditure on mobile phone (Chronbach's [alpha] =.74), virtual self-image (Chronbach's [alpha] =.74). Factor six, seven and eight were discarded as items of these factors were either conceptually not related with each other or chronbach's [alpha] was below acceptance level (<.5).

Psychological Well-being: The brief version of psychological well-being inventory (Ryff & Singer, 1998) was used to assess psychological wellbeing. It consisted of 18 items reflecting the six areas of psychological well-being: autonomy, environmental, mastery, personal growth, positive relations with others, purpose in life and self-acceptance. Five point likert scale (strongly disagree to strongly agree) was used to collect the responses of the participants.

Factor analysis resulted into six factor structure of psychological wellbeing in the present study. However, only three factors were retained for further analysis. Reliability of factors retained for further analysis are as follows: self awareness (Chronbach's [alpha] =.515), personal control(Chronbach's [alpha] =.625), managing daily life events (Chronbach's [alpha] =.501). The last three variables were discarded as there Cronbach [alpha] was less than <.5.


The aim of the present study is to explore the relationship between mobile phone dependence and psychological well-being among young adults. The data were analysed with the help of statistical package for the social sciences (SPSS, ver. 20).

As reported in 'measures section', the present study used four dimensions of mobile phone dependence: overindulgence, emotional dependence, killing boredom, expenditure on mobile phone and virtual self-image. Self awareness, personal control and managing daily life events have been used to assess the psychological well-being. Pearson's product moment correlation coefficient was computed to examine the relationship between different dimensions of mobile phone dependence and psychological well being.

Table 1 shows a strong positive correlation between overindulgence and emotional dependence, r(243)=.519, p<.01, killing boredom, r(243)=.474, p<.01, virtual self-image, r(243)=.259, p<.01, expenditure on mobile phone, r(243)=.410, p<.01. Moreover, a negative correlation between overindulgence and with managing daily life events, r(243)= -.151, p<.05.

Table 1 demonstrates a positive correlation between emotional dependence and killing boredom r(243)=.432, p<.01, expenditure on mobile phone r(243)=.354, p<.01, virtual self -image r(243)=.333, p.<01 and a negative correlation between emotional dependence and managing daily life events r(243) = -.126, p<.05.

As displayed in table 1, there is a positive correlation between expenditure on mobile phone and virtual self-image r(243)=.282, p<.01 and a negative correlation between expenditure on mobile phone and managing daily life events r(243)=-.130, p<.05.

Moreover, as depicted in table 1, there is a positive correlation between self-awareness and managing daily life events r(243)=.254, p<.01 and between personal control r(243)=.159, p<.01.

Results of the present study demonstrated a significant negative relationship between various dimensions of mobile phone dependence (overindulgence, emotional dependence, killing boredom, expenditure on mobile phone and virtual self-image) and psychological well-being. The results of the present study confirm that overdependence on mobile phones may have detrimental effect on managing daily life events.

Results observed a negative correlation between overindulgence and managing daily life activities. In the present paper, 'overindulgence' refers to a repetitive thought and compulsive act to use mobile phone across time and situation. The results of the present study may imply that an excessive and uninterrupted use of mobile phone throughout a day could lead to higher levels of dependence, which in turn may bring lower levels of self regulation to manage daily life activities and dissatisfaction towards life goals. Similar, results were also reported by Samaha and Hawi, (2016) in case of smartphone addiction risk, academic performance, perceived stress and satisfaction with life. They found that smartphone addiction is negatively correlated with perceived stress and academic performance. However, they did not find a direct link between smartphone addiction and satisfaction with life. The relationship between these two variable were mediated by perceived stress and academic performance.

A negative association was observed between 'emotional dependence' and 'managing daily life events'. The present paper has operationalized 'emotional dependence' as an individual's tendency to use mobile phone as a medium to express one's emotions freely and, prefer to solve problems, issues or conflict with others through mobile phone than face-to-face communication. Results of the present study may imply that mobile phone provides a medium to express one's emotions in a secured and quick manner, which act as a positive reinforcement to fabricate and strengthen social bond in the virtual world. As a result of it, individuals may develop higher dependency on their mobile phones, which would lead them to have insufficient time and patience to handle daily life hassles in the real world. According to Moody (2001) an excessive internet use is linked with low levels of social well-being. According to Deursen, Bolle, Hegner and Kommers, (2015) individuals who profoundly use their smartphone for social purposes tend to develop smartphone habits faster, which in turn might increase their addictive smartphone behavior. Deursen et. al. also reported that social stress was positively associated with smartphone behavior, and a failure of self-regulation might lead to a high risk of addictive smartphone behavior. On the contrary, Chiu, (2014) found that in order to avoid familial and emotional stress, students preferred to engage themselves more with smartphone use leading to smartphone addiction. Thus, it can also be interpreted that mobile phones at one hand may weave a social bond with significant others and on the other hand it may also be used a medium to escape from emotional and family stress. However, in both cases an individual may develop a behavioral as well as psychological maladaptive dependency, in turn could have a negative impact on their lives.

There is a negative relationship between 'expenditure on mobile phone' and 'managing daily life events'. 'Expenditure on mobile phone' refers to the total expenses spent on mobile phone such as, branded device, tariffs etc. It may imply that an excessive expenditure on mobile phone may bring financial constraints which in turn may cause a detrimental impact on an individual's daily life activities. Billieux and Linden, (2008) pointed out that higher dependence on mobile phones promote financial burdens with especial reference to young adults. They also reported that lack of perseverance, which is one of the attributes of impulsivity, forces an individual to get engaged with more mobile phone calling, messages etc. which in turn involves higher financial burden. Lack of perseverance was measured in terms of an individuals' ability to focus on a task even if it is difficult or boring.

The significant correlation was also observed among the various dimensions of mobile phone dependence. The results demonstrated a positive correlation between overindulgence and emotional dependence. The young users feel driven to share feelings and experiences. It also reinforces their relationship with family members and friends. Chen and Katz (2009), reported that mobile phone is a popular tool among the youngsters; it fosters relationship and helps to strength an emotional bond with family members and friends.

The present study found a positive correlation between 'expenditure on mobile phone' and 'virtual self-image'. Srivastava (2005), found that certain features of mobile phones such as, fancy wallpapers, ringtones and messages stored in mobile phone play a significant role in perceiving one's enhanced social status among youth. Possessing a top brand mobile phone gives them a sense of power and sense of belonging. Moreover, virtual self-image is positively correlated with emotional dependence. The young-users tend to change mobile phone accessories ranging from covers, ringtones and wallpapers according to the mood and occasions.

Finding of the present study illustrated a strong positive relationship between 'overindulgence' and 'killing boredom'. The term 'killing boredom' is defined as an individual's tendency to engage in mobile phone use, during one's free time rather than engaging in some other recreational activity. It can be inferred from the results that individuals that tend to use mobile phone during their free time instead of getting involved in other meaningful activities, live in the perception that it helps them to abstain from negative mood resulting out of boredom. This in turn may lead an individual in a state of flow, thereby providing an individual with reinforcing motives of instant gratification and mood regulation and making individual to get overindulged with mobile phones (Zhang, Chen, Zhao, & Lee, 2014). In a study on digital media and addiction, Khang, Kim and Kim (2013), reported that dispositional media use motives of pas-time (to kill time and boredom) was significantly related with different forms of media addiction such as, internet, mobile phone etc.

The findings also demonstrated a positive relation between overindulgence and virtual self- image. The term virtual self-image refers to a belief to carry a top branded mobile phone in order to enhance one's self-esteem and social network in virtual as well as in real life. As suggested by Khang, Kim and Kim (2013), the primary motives behind mobile phone use are instantaneous, social status, mobility and interest which in turn may result in dependence in mobile phone.

The present study imparts important implications with certain limitations. Results of the present study demonstrate a negative correlation between various dimensions of mobile phone dependence and managing daily life events, one of the dimensions of psychological well-being. The results may suggest that a dependence on mobile phone for various purposes may cause a detrimental impact on managing daily life activities, which further may lead to other psycho-social problems of depression, anxiety, social isolation etc. in real life setting. Furthermore, the studies on mobile phone dependence are at a rudimentary level, the present study may give awareness about the recognition of mobile phone dependence and its consequences. Although, the results have shown a weak negative correlation between mobile phone dependence and psychological well-being. The study is indicative of the fact that mobile phone dependence could have a negative impact on an individual's psychological well-being and also more in-depth researches needs to be done. In addition to this, the study was focused on the small population of young adults, which restricts it's generalizability. A greater sample size with cross sectional design could give in-depth insights to issues in question.


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Rageshwari Munderia (*) and Rajbala Singh (**)

(*) Research Scholar, (**) Associate Professor-Psychology,Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, The LNM Institute of Information Technology, Jaipur-302031, India

Received: January 21, 2018

Revised: Febuary 27, 2018

Accepted: April 09, 2018
Table 1: Bivariate correlations among mobile phone dependence and
psychological well being

      OI  ED         KB         EXMP       VSI        SA     PC

OI        .519 (**)  .474 (**)  .410 (**)  .259 (**)   .018  -.038
ED                   .432 (**)  .354 (**)  .333 (**)  -.004  -.027
KB                              .336 (**)  .265 (**)  -.030   .000
EXMP                                       .282 (**)  -.084   .075
VSI                                                   -.024  -.019
SA                                                           .159 (*)

      OI  MDL

OI        -.151 (*)
ED        -.126 (*)
KB        -.105
EXMP      -.130 (*)
VSI       -.160 (*)
SA         .254 (**)
PC         .168 (**)

(**) p<.01, (*) p<.05

OI: Overindulgence, ED: Emotional dependence, KB: Killing boredom,
EXMP: Expenditure on mobile phone, VSI: Virtual self-image, SA: Self
Awareness, PC: Personal control, MDL: Managing daily life events
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Author:Munderia, Rageshwari; Singh, Rajbala
Publication:Indian Journal of Community Psychology
Date:Sep 1, 2018
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