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Coping Strategies for Cell Phone Loss Anxiety

Coping Strategies for Cell Phone Loss Anxiety

For many, a day without a smartphone a day without sunshine.

The issue becomes much more complicated if we believe we have lost our phones compounding anxiety and stress.

A new study outlines potential coping mechanisms. Surprisingly, few smart-phone users have a plan to minimize repercussions associated with loss of the device.

Experts contend that the smartphone has changed our behavior — sometimes for the better as we are now able to connect and engage with many more people than ever before — sometimes for the worse in that we may have become over-reliant on the device.

Either way, the smart phone is here to stay as hundreds of thousands of people connect through the various social media and other applications available on our cells.

However, our dependence brings anxiety.

The loss of one’s smart phone not only represents an immediate disconnection from one’s online contacts but is also a potential privacy and security risk should the lost phone end up in the hands of a malicious third party.

In the study, Canadian researchers outline the possible coping mechanisms that might be needed following loss or theft and the security problems that the user might face.

The researchers point out that the same anxieties apply equally to lost or stolen laptops, tablet computers and other digital devices.

As found in the International Journal of Mobile Communications, McMaster University researchers explain that the convenience of mobility, wireless communication and the information processing power of smart phones and other portable digital devices has led to more and more people carrying with them valuable data assets wherever they go.

These assets may include personal and business contacts, private pictures and videos, meeting and lecture notes and the like, banking details, utility statements, company spreadsheets and much more.

All such assets are potentially sensitive to abuse by third parties.

DeGroote School of Business researchers Drs. Yufei Yuan and Norm Archer, and graduate student Zhiling Tu, said that as many companies now have a BYOD (bring-your-own-device) policy rather than dispensing a standard corporate device to all employees there are additional security issues that arise from their being centralized control of the data on a given device.

The value of lost hardware might be negligible when compared to the loss of sensitive or proprietary data.

Researchers discovered that while there are various countermeasures that can be used to cope with mobile device loss and theft, users are either unaware of their existence or unwilling to use them. As a result, the cost and convenience of security countermeasures need to be explained.

Investigators discovered many cell phone users are unaware of activities they may do to minimize the effects from a loss of a smart phone.

They found that only a few active and security-conscious users were aware of countermeasures and that many users were either not aware of “time bomb” data deletion settings and remote device locks or such or were simply in denial of the risk of their losing their phone.

Their findings suggest that an awareness campaign might be needed to encourage general users to make their devices more secure and that organizations must enforce certain features on their employees and members to protect sensitive data that might be on those devices beyond their direct control.


Locked cell phone photo by shutterstock.

Coping Strategies for Cell Phone Loss Anxiety

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). Coping Strategies for Cell Phone Loss Anxiety. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 22 Aug 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.