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Compulsive Cell Phone Use Similar to Other Consumer ‘Addictions’

Compulsive Cell Phone Use Similar to Other Consumer 'Addictions' New research suggests that compulsive cell phone and instant messaging use are similar to compulsive buying and credit card misuse.

In the study, Baylor University researchers link materialism and impulsiveness to what they refer to as cell phone and IT “addictions.”

“Cell phones are a part of our consumer culture,” said study author James Roberts, Ph.D., professor of marketing at Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business. “They are not just a consumer tool, but are used as a status symbol.”

The study has been published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions.

Behavioral addictions such as compulsive cell phone use or pathological gambling are not currently diagnoses in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the primary diagnostic reference manual of mental illness used by psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health workers. A new version of the DSM is expected in 2013, and many observers expect that one or more behavioral addictions may be added.

Roberts’ study, co-authored with Stephen Pirog III, Ph.D., at Seton Hall University, found that materialism and impulsiveness are what drive cell phone addiction.

Cell phones are used as part of the conspicuous consumption ritual and also act as a pacifier for the impulsive tendencies of the user, according to Roberts. Impulsiveness, he noted, plays an important role in both behavioral and substance addictions.

Cell phone use and overuse have become so common that it is important to have a better understanding of what drives these types of what might be called technological addictions.

Some studies have shown that young adults send an average of 109.5 text messages a day or approximately 3,200 texts each month. Furthermore, surveys suggest that young adults receive an additional 113 text messages and check their cell 60 times in a typical day.

On average, college students spend approximately seven hours daily interacting with information and communication technology.

“At first glance, one might have the tendency to dismiss such aberrant cell phone use as merely youthful nonsense – a passing fad. But an emerging body of literature has given increasing credence to cell phone addiction and similar behavioral addictions,” Roberts said.

Data for this study come from self-report surveys of 191 business students at two U.S. universities. Cell phones are used by approximately 90 percent of college students, and said Roberts, “serve more than just a utilitarian purpose.”

The explosion in use of cell phones shows no signs of abating as an ever-expanding array of functions continue to attract users. Although some of the new apps may have practical or vocational use, many of the apps are more social in function.

This expansion of reliance on mobile technology makes their use or overuse increasingly likely. In fact, a majority of young people claim that losing their cell phone would be disastrous to their social lives, he said.

Source: Baylor University

Teenagers texting on cell phones photo by shutterstock.

Compulsive Cell Phone Use Similar to Other Consumer ‘Addictions’

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Compulsive Cell Phone Use Similar to Other Consumer ‘Addictions’. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 29 Nov 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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