Background: Use of mobile phones has rapidly risen among adolescents despite a lack of scientific certainty on their health risks. Risk perception is an important determinant of behavior, and studies on adolescents' risk perceptions of mobile phones or base stations are very scarce. This study aims to evaluate high school students' risk perceptions on mobile phones and base stations, their trust to authorities, their opinions regarding incivility while using mobile phones and to assess associated factors.
Methods: For this cross-sectional study, 2530 students were chosen with stratified cluster sampling among 20,493 high school students studying in Bornova district of Izmir, Turkey, among whom 2240 (88.5%) participated. Risk perceptions and opinions were questioned with a 5-point Likert scale for 24 statements grouped under four dimensions. The mean responses to the four dimensions were categorized as <3.5 (low) and ≥3.5 (high) and the determinants were analyzed with logistic regression.
Results: Mean risk perception scores for the mobile phone, base station, trust to authority and incivility dimensions were 3.69 ± 0.89, 4.34 ± 0.78, 3.77 ± 0.93, 3.16 ± 0.93 and the prevalence of high risk perception was 65.1%, 86.7%, 66.2%, 39.7%, respectively. In the mobile phone dimension; students attending industrial technical high school had lower risk perceptions while female students, lower mothers' education groups and students not using mobile phones (OR = 2.82, 95% CI = 1.80-4.40) had higher risk perceptions. In the base station dimension girls had higher risk perceptions (OR = 1.68, 95% CI = 1.20-2.37). Girls and students attending industrial technical high school had significantly lower risk perception however 11-12th grade group perceived the risk higher (OR = 1.45 95% CI = 1.15-1.84) in the trust to authority dimension. For the incivility dimension, female students (OR = 1.44, 95% CI = 1.14-1.82), illiterate/only literate mothers (OR = 1.79, 95% CI = 1.04-2.75) and students not using mobile phones (OR = 2.50, 95% CI = 1.62-3.87) perceived higher risk.
Conclusions: Understanding the effects of these determinants might aid in developing more effective educational interventions to specific subgroups on this topic. As debates on the health consequences of electromagnetic fields continue, it would be cautious to approach this issue with a preventive perspective. Efforts should be made to equalize the varying level of knowledge and to ensure that students are informed accurately.