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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