Study links certain personality traits to an increased risk of mobile phone addiction

“Nomophobia” is the fear of having no access to one’s mobile phone, and is considered a modern-age phobia. Credit: Mohamed Hassan on Pixabay

A study by the University of Granada (UGR) has identified the personality traits that increase or decrease the degree of vulnerability to so-called “nomophobia,” defined as the fear of being out of the range of mobile phone contact—a modern-age phobia.

The study, conducted at the Faculty of Psychology of the University of Granada, analyzed the personality traits that accentuate people’s risk of suffering this type of addiction or protect them from it. This addiction can become a disease that disrupts individuals’ normal routines or prevents them from living a normal life.

Francisca López Torrecillas, Professor of the Department of Personality, Evaluation and Psychological Treatment at the University of Granada, explains that the study was designed to gain a deeper understanding of nomophobia—one of the primary addictions on the rise in the modern age—and to test whether there are personality profiles or traits that may heighten the possibility of suffering from it.

This addiction generates dependence on the mobile phone, and affects up to seven out of ten Spaniards, according to some studies. It is measured by the number of hours spent using the phone in place of other activities and the fear or anxiety experienced when the individual has no access to their mobile device.

Problems with sleep and depression

“Prolonged use of mobile phones can also cause sleep problems, depression, and retinal damage, it can generate muscle tension, and it affects behavior, like any other addiction,” observes López Torrecillas.

The possibility of suffering from this phobia depends on the individual’s main personality traits, such as their values, spirituality, in the broadest non-religious sense, or self-transcendence.

To demonstrate this, the research team, coordinated by López Torrecillas, developed two tests, one to evaluate the level of nomophobia and the other, comprising 240 items, measuring temperament and character. The tests were administered to almost 1,000 Andalusian adults.

Among the conclusions, the study found that there are certain factors that help protect against nomophobia, including values such as the predisposition to collaborate with others and a form spirituality that is in line with the personal growth movements, characterized by people who are “socially tolerant, empathetic, helpful, and compassionate.” By contrast, people who suffer from this addiction to mobile phones present features related to gratification-seeking behaviors, to self-interest, or to behaviors that require positive reinforcement from others.

“Spiritual maturity, the desire to feel fulfilled, the ability to meditate, and non-materialistic thinking—all of which are linked to high levels of satisfaction with life—are shown by the study to exert a protective effect against nomophobia,” concludes López Torrecillas.


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