Use of mobile and cordless phones and change in cognitive function: a prospective cohort analysis of Australian primary school children

Environ Health. 2017 Jun 19;16(1):62. doi: 10.1186/s12940-017-0250-4.


Background: Some previous studies have suggested an association between children's use of mobile phones (MPs)/cordless phones (CPs) and development of cognitive function. We evaluated possible longitudinal associations between the use of MPs and CPs in a cohort of primary school children and effects on their cognitive function.

Methods: Data on children's socio-demographics, use of MPs and CPs, and cognitive function were collected at baseline (2010-2012) and follow-up (2012-2013). Cognitive outcomes were evaluated with the CogHealth™ test battery and Stroop Color-Word test. The change in the number of MP/CP voice calls weekly from baseline to follow-up was dichotomized: "an increase in calls" or a "decrease/no change in calls". Multiple linear regression analyses, adjusting for confounders and clustering by school, were performed to evaluate the associations between the change in cognitive outcomes and change in MP and CP exposures.

Results: Of 412 children, a larger proportion of them used a CP (76% at baseline and follow-up), compared to a MP (31% at baseline and 43% at follow-up). Of 26 comparisons of changes in cognitive outcomes, four demonstrated significant associations. The increase in MP usage was associated with larger reduction in response time for response inhibition, smaller reduction in the number of total errors for spatial problem solving and larger increase in response time for a Stroop interference task. Except for the smaller reduction in detection task accuracy, the increase in CP usage had no effect on the changes in cognitive outcomes.

Conclusion: Our study shows that a larger proportion of children used CPs compared to MPs. We found limited evidence that change in the use of MPs or CPs in primary school children was associated with change in cognitive function.

Keywords: Cognitive function; Cordless phone use; Mobile phone use; Primary school children.

MeSH terms

  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Cell Phone / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child
  • Cognition*
  • Electromagnetic Fields
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Prospective Studies