Where's Your Phone? A Survey of Where Women Aged 15-40 Carry Their Smartphone and Related Risk Perception: A Survey and Pilot Study

PLoS One. 2017 Jan 6;12(1):e0167996. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0167996. eCollection 2017.

Abstract

Smartphones are now owned by most young adults in many countries. Installed applications regularly update while the phone is in standby. If it is kept near the body, this can lead to considerably higher exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation than occurred without internet access. Very little is known about current smartphone carrying habits of young women. This survey used an online questionnaire to ask about smartphone location under several circumstances to inform the power calculation for a women's health study. They were also asked about risk perceptions. Data was analysed using Pearson chi square. Three age categories were made: 15-20, 21-30, 31-40. Smartphones were generally kept on standby (96% by day, 83% at night). Of all participants, in the last week the most common locations of the phone when not in use or during passive use was off-body (86%), in the hand (58%), a skirt/trouser pocket (57%), or against the breast (15%). Pocket and near-the-breast storage were significant by age (χ215.04, p = 0.001 and χ210.96, p = 0.04, respectively), both positively influenced by the youngest group. The same influence lay in the association between holding the phone (χ211.082, p = 0.004) and pocket-storage (χ219.971, p<0.001) during passive use. For calls, 36.5% solely used the phone against the head. More than half kept the phone 20-50 cms from their head at night (53%), while 13% kept it closer than 20 cms. Many (36%) thought RF-EMR exposure was related to health problems while 16% did not. There was no relationship between thinking RF-EMR exposure causes health problems in general and carrying the phone against the upper or lower body (p = 0.69 and p = 0.212, respectively). However, calls with the phone against the head were positively related to perception of health risk (χ2 6.695, p = 0.035). Our findings can be used in the power calculation for a case-control study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Perception*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Smartphone*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The study was funded by the National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia, NHMRC grant 2013 CRE 1060205, https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/grants-funding. The grant was awarded to Michael Abramson and funds the Centre for Research Excellence: Population Health Research on Electromagnetic Energy (PRESEE). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.