“Nomophobia” is the fear of being out of mobile phone contact. The term, an abbreviation for “no-mobile-phone phobia” was coined during a 2010 study by the UK Post Office who commissioned YouGov, a UK-based research organization to look at anxieties suffered by mobile phone users. The study found that nearly 53% of mobile phone users in Britain tend to be anxious when they “lose their mobile phone, run out of battery or credit, or have no network coverage”. The study found that about 58% of men and 47% of women suffer from the phobia, and an additional 9% feel stressed when their mobile phones are off. The study sampled 2,163 people. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed cited keeping in touch with friends or family as the main reason that they got anxious when they could not use their mobile phones. The study compared stress levels induced by the average case of nomophobia to be on-par with those of “wedding day jitters” and trips to the dentists. Ten percent of those questioned said they needed to be contactable at all times because of work. It is, however, arguable that the word ‘phobia‘ is misused and that in the majority of cases it is only a normal anxiety.
More than one in two nomophobes never switch off their mobile phones. The study and subsequent coverage of the phobia resulted in two editorial columns authored by those who minimize their mobile phone use or choose not to own one at all, treating the condition with light undertones of or outright disbelief and amusement.
Meanwhile, Indian researchers have also evaluated mobile phone dependence among students at M.G.M. Medical College and the associated hospital of central India. India, after China, is the second largest mobile phone market in the world.
The study, published by the Indian Journal of Community Medicine three years ago, recruited 200 medical students and scholars. About one in five students were nomophobic, results showed. The study claimed that the mobile phone has become “a necessity because of the countless perks that a mobile phone provides like personal diary, email dispatcher, calculator, video game player, and camera and music player.”
“There is an increase in the nomophobic population in India because the number of mobile phone users has increased,” said Dr.Sanjay Dixit, one the researchers and the head of the Indian Journal of Community Medicine. “We are currently doing another research on mobile phone dependency, it’s not published yet, but analysis shows that about 45% of the Indian population, is nomophobic.”
With the augmented ownership and usage of smartphones among adolescents, Dixit says the young population is more at risk, partly because they can access the Internet through phones more easily, increasing the time spent on phones.
“We found out that people who use mobile phones for more than three hours a day have a higher chance of getting nomophobia,” he said, warning this can pose potential dangers.
Accidents lurk while nomophobes fix their attention on phones. According to Dixit, up to 25% nomophobes reported accidents while messaging or talking on the phone, which includes minor road accidents, falling while going upstairs or downstairs and stumbling while walking. More than 20% also reported pain in the thumbs due to excessive texting.