19 November 2019

Mobile Addiction Related to Poor Health

A large questionnaire survey from the Department of Public Health at the University of Copenhagen indicates that the most mobile dependent Danes have poorer health than others. This may be due to stress and poor sleep, says head of research Naja Hulvej Rod.

Sleepless man in bed holding his mobile phone


The SmartSleep Experiment at the University of Copenhagen has collected answers about mobile use, health and sleep habits from more than 25,000 Danes. The answers show that every fourth participant feels addicted to their mobile to a high or very high degree. In addition, 50 percent of the participants indicated that they felt addicted to their mobile to some degree.

Previous results from the SmartSleep Experiment have also shown that mobile addiction is connected to both stress and headache.

Now, new figures from the experiment links mobile addiction and poor self-reported health. As seen in the figure below, a larger proportion of people with a high degree of mobile addiction have poor self-reported health compared to those who are less addicted to their mobile.

Among those who are addicted to their mobile to a very high degree, 17 percent indicate that their health is ‘less good’ or ‘poor’. Just over 10 percent of the participants who report being only to some degree addicted to their mobile state that they are in  less good or poor health, while 13 percent of the participants who state that they are addicted to their mobile to a very limited degree rate their health as less good or poor. The overall trend is seen in both men and women, though more distinctly in women.

As self-reported health is an important indicator of the overall state of health, this may indicate that a high degree of mobile addiction has negative impact on one’s health.

The figure shows the proportion of people with less good or poor self-reported health in relation to different degrees of mobile addiction divided by gender.
The figure shows the proportion of people with less good or poor self-reported health in relation to different degrees of mobile addiction divided by gender.

There may be several explanations why the researchers found this correlation. 

‘People with a high degree of mobile addiction may be more stressed because they feel a constant need to be available. This may impact not only their mental health, but also their sleep and the physical health’, says Professor at the Department of Public Health Naja Hulvej Rod, the person behind the SmartSleep Experiment.

‘However, we cannot rule out that those who are already in poor health use their phones differently than those who are in good health. There may also be other factors that explain the correlation’, Naja Hulvej Rod elaborates.

The researchers will now investigate the connection between mobile addiction and self-reported health in more detail.

About SmartSleep
The SmartSleep Experiment is a ‘citizen science’ project in which researchers from the University of Copenhagen study how mobile use affects our sleep and health.

In November 2018, 25,000 Danes answered a questionnaire about their mobile use, their sleep quality and their experiences of stress and headaches. 13,000 people will be invited to a larger survey where the researchers monitor their mobile use through an app. In addition, 500 young people will be part of an extensive clinical health study.

The researchers hope that data from the SmartSleep project will provide more nuanced knowledge of the Danes' mobile use, the possible negative health consequences – and how to take precautionary measures against them.