Mobile Phone Use and Mental Health. A Review of the Research That Takes a Psychological Perspective on Exposure

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Nov 29;15(12):2692. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15122692.


The purpose of this study was to carry out a review of observational studies that consider links between mobile phone use and mental health from a psychological or behavioral perspective. Systematic literature searches in PubMed and PsycINFO for articles published until 2017 were done. Exclusion criteria included: papers that considered radiofrequency fields, attention, safety, relational consequences, sexual behavior, cyberbullying, and reviews, qualitative, and case or experimental studies. A total of 4738 papers were screened by title and abstract, 404 were retrieved in full text, and 290 were included. Only 5% had any longitudinal design. Self-reporting was the dominating method of measurement. One third of the studies included children or youth. A majority of adult populations consisted of university students and/or self-selected participants. The main research results included associations between frequent mobile phone use and mental health outcomes, such as depressive symptoms and sleep problems. Mobile phone use at bedtime was associated with, e.g., shorter sleep duration and lower sleep quality. "Problematic use" (dependency) was associated with several negative outcomes. In conclusion, associations between mobile phone use and adverse mental health outcomes are found in studies that take a psychological or behavioral perspective on the exposure. However, more studies of high quality are needed in order to draw valid conclusions about the mechanisms and causal directions of associations.

Keywords: behavioral addiction; cell phone; depression; epidemiology; psychology; sleep.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior, Addictive / epidemiology*
  • Cell Phone Use / statistics & numerical data*
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health*
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Research
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / psychology
  • Text Messaging / statistics & numerical data*