Canadian researchers have recently published the results of the largest study on smartphone addiction, revealing variations based on gender, age, and even country of residence. Approximately one in three individuals reportedly exhibits problematic smartphone usage.
50,423 participants from 195 countries, ranging in age from 18 to 90, took part in the extensive global survey that University of Toronto researchers conducted and published in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction. Nearly one-third of respondents (29 to 31%) received a score classifying them as having a high risk of smartphone addiction.
The researchers employed the abbreviated version of the Smartphone Addiction Scale (SAS-SV) questionnaire by Kwon et al. (2013), consisting of 10 statements such as “I feel impatient and anxious when I am not holding my smartphone” or “People around me say that I use my smartphone too much.” Notably, women scored higher in problematic smartphone use compared to men, a trend more pronounced in the 41 countries with at least 100 participants. The researchers suggest that women may use their smartphones more for social reasons, such as communication with loved ones or engagement with social media.
Levels of addiction varied across regions, with higher smartphone addiction observed in younger individuals, decreasing with age. Regional disparities were evident, with Southeast Asia showing significantly higher problematic usage compared to Europe. The researchers propose that this discrepancy may be attributed to the predominant adoption of the internet through smartphones in Southeast Asia, whereas Europe had already embraced internet use on computers well before smartphones became prevalent. Social norms, particularly in more collectivist societies emphasizing group connections, could also contribute to these differences.
Despite these findings, the researchers emphasize the limitations of the data. Given the ubiquitous integration of smartphones into our lives and work, future studies must adopt a more nuanced approach. For instance, someone spending eight hours a day on social media for work may not necessarily experience negative effects on their life. The researchers plan to conduct long-term studies to assess whether addiction levels increase or stabilize over time.