Introduction Mobile phones have in a few decades affected how we communicate, interact, search for information, and pass time, at work and at leisure, implying a near ubiquitous use. There is a growing literature on potential health effects of mobile phone use. The aim was to review epidemiological studies that take a psychological or behavioural perspective on mobile phone use and mental health.
Methods PubMed and PsycINFO were searched for studies on mobile phone use and mental health in May 2, 2016. 1550 papers were screened on title/abstract. Exclusion criteria: studies considering electromagnetic fields, attention while driving/studying, relational aspects, sexual behaviour, cyberbullying, case or experimental studies, and reviews. 176 papers were retrieved of which 126 were included. Formal systematic quality assessment of the papers was not done.
Results Only approx 5% of the papers had longitudinal design. Self-report was the dominating method of measurement for exposure and outcomes. One third of the studies concerned children or youth. The majority of studies on adults were based on university students and/or self-selected participants. In summary, intense or frequent mobile phone use was seen to be associated with a broad spectrum of mental health outcomes, e.g. depressive symptoms and sleep problems. Mobile phone use at bedtime was associated with shorter sleep duration and lower sleep quality. ‘Problematic use’, i.e., mobile phone use connected to behavioural addiction or pathological usage, was associated with several negative outcomes such as depression, anxiety, and sleep problems.
Discussion Research studies show associations between mobile phone use and mental health outcomes. However, there is need for more studies of good quality; with longitudinal design, objective measurements, and well-defined study populations, in order to draw valid conclusions about possible causal associations between mobile phone use and mental health symptoms.
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