Front Public Health. 2022 Apr 14;10:834835. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2022.834835. eCollection 2022.
The current study examined antecedents and possible consequences of smartphone use disorder (SmUD). In particular, we aimed to increase the understanding of the interplay of SmUD, mental health, and physical symptoms. Studies found that SmUD is associated with diverse psychological and physical health impairments, ranging from depression and anxiety to headaches and sleep disturbances. Based on existing works, we assumed that mental problems mediate the relationship between SmUD and bodily problems. We conducted a cross-sectional random-quota online survey among 938 German smartphone owners aged 14 to 64 years. An instrument based on the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) was used to measure SmUD severity. The data was analyzed using structural equation modeling. We identified a rate of 4.0% potentially disordered users. Males and younger participants showed more signs of SmUD. As expected, SmUD severity was found to be associated with physical (more frequent headaches, sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal problems) as well as psychological (higher levels of loneliness, stress, depression/anxiety) health impairments. Investigating the interplay of these variables showed that depression and anxiety, and stress partially mediated the relationship between SmUD severity and physical symptoms. Taken together, our results confirm that increased SmUD severity is associated with mental problems as well as with somatic symptoms. We assume complex (and presumably circular) relationships, which future studies should examine in more detail. SmUD prevention and intervention programs should follow a broad approach that considers decreases in physical and mental health, possibly causing or resulting from SmUD.