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Validating self-reported mobile phone use in adults using a newly developed smartphone application
  1. Geertje Goedhart1,
  2. Hans Kromhout1,
  3. Joe Wiart2,
  4. Roel Vermeulen1,3
  1. 1Department of Environmental Epidemiology, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  2. 2Whist Lab, Institut Mines Telecom and Orange Labs, Paris, France
  3. 3School of Public Health, Imperial College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Geertje Goedhart, Department of Environmental Epidemiology, Utrecht University, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, P.O. Box 80178, Utrecht 3508 TD, The Netherlands; g.goedhart{at}


Objective Interpretation of epidemiological studies on health effects from mobile phone use is hindered by uncertainties in the exposure assessment. We used a newly developed smartphone application (app) to validate self-reported mobile phone use and behaviour among adults.

Methods 107 participants (mean age 41.4 years) in the Netherlands either downloaded the software app on their smartphone or were provided with a study smartphone for 4 weeks. The app recorded the number and duration of calls, text messages, data transfer, laterality and hands-free use. Self-reported mobile phone use was collected before using the app and after 6 months through an interviewer-administered questionnaire.

Results The geometric mean ratios (GMR, 95% CI) and Spearman correlations (r) of self-reported (after 6 months) versus recorded number and duration of calls were: GMR=0.65 (0.53 to 0.80), r=0.53; and GMR=1.11 (0.86 to 1.42), r=0.57 respectively. Participants held the phone on average for 86% of the total call time near the head. Self-reported right side users held the phone for 70.7% of the total call time on the right side of the head, and left side users for 66.2% on the left side of the head. The percentage of total call time that the use of hands-free devices (headset, speaker mode, Bluetooth) was recorded increased with increasing frequency of reported hands-free device usage.

Discussion The observed recall errors and precision of reported laterality and hands-free use can be used to quantify and improve radiofrequency exposure models based on self-reported mobile phone use.

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