Young people in UK among most dependent in Europe on mobile phones, research suggests

The UK has one of the highest rates of dependence on mobile phones among young people in Europe, a new study suggests.

Young people on mobile phones

Psychologists at Nottingham Trent University investigated the mobile phone use of almost 2,800 young people in countries across Europe and their perceived dependence on their devices.

They found that the UK had the second highest rate of phone dependence, with 3.5% of 18-29 year-olds viewing their phone use as excessive. Belgium had the highest rate at 3.9% and France was third with 3.4%.

Highly-dependent mobile phone users estimated their daily phone usage to be close to six hours a day, the researchers found.

Most of their time was spent messaging and chatting, emailing and on social networks. A large proportion was spent purely ‘searching’ online, viewing TV shows and reading websites.

As part of their study, the researchers – writing in the Journal of Behavioural Addictions – grouped countries together into regions of Europe.

‘Northern Europe’, which contains the UK, had by far the highest rate of time spent emailing, searching, reading, gaming and gambling.

People living in ‘Southern Europe’, meanwhile, had the heaviest mobile phone use, but spent most time messaging and chatting, social networking, downloading and shopping than their northern European counterparts.

Perceived dependence on mobile phones was lowest in eastern European countries – just one percent in Poland.

We need to better understand the use and misuse of mobile phones among young Europeans, which will help to drive prevention practices and new policy in this important area

Lead researcher Dr Olatz Lopez-Fernandez

Participants were gathered from ten European countries and completed an online questionnaire to assess patterns of mobile phone use. They also completed a scale designed to assess the extent of perceived dependence on their smartphones – with statements including ‘It is easy for me to spend all day not using my mobile phone’ and ‘I can live easily without my mobile phone’.

In the early 2000s mobile phones were limited to calls and text messaging. Now they are the most used technology in human history, with more than 5bn users of 4G networks anticipated by 2019.

Previous studies have shown how excessive phone use is linked to a wide range of problematic behaviours – including financial problems, reduced physical activity and sleep interference.

Lead researcher Dr Olatz Lopez-Fernandez, a senior lecturer in psychology in Nottingham Trent University’s School of Social Sciences, said: “This work is important because available data on phone use and phone dependency among young adults in Europe is scarce.

“We need to better understand the use and misuse of mobile phones among young Europeans, which will help to drive prevention practices and new policy in this important area.”

Dr Daria Kuss, part of the research team and Course Leader for the new MSc Cyberpsychology at Nottingham Trent University, said: “Excessive smartphone use appears to be a problem for a small minority of frequent users. Among these, young female social networking users stand out as a population which may be particularly at risk for developing negative consequences due to their smartphone use.”

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Young people in UK among most dependent in Europe on mobile phones, research suggests

Published on 19 May 2017
  • Subject area: Psychology, sociology, health and social care
  • Category: Press office; School of Social Sciences

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