A systematic review on nomophobia prevalence: Surfacing results and standard guidelines for future research

PLoS One. 2021 May 18;16(5):e0250509. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0250509. eCollection 2021.


Background: Mobile phones allow us to stay connected with others and provide us a sense of security. We can work, chat with family and friends, take pictures, buy clothes or books, and even control home appliances. They play such a significant role in our lives that we feel anxious without them. In some cases, the relationship between humans and these communication devices have become problematic. Nomophobia (NMP) is the fear of becoming incommunicable, separated from the mobile phone and losing connection to the Internet. Since this social phobia was coined in the first decade of the XXI century, a growing number of studies have studied it and reported the prevalence of this technology-related problem. However, this research activity has generated mixed results regarding how we assess and report nomophobia and who may be at a higher risk of suffering or developing it.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review of 108 studies published in English and Spanish and collected them in Parsifal. We searched for assessment and prevalence data on nomophobia. Also, we looked at gender and age differences to identify risk factors and see if these differences exist and emerge worldwide.

Results: In this study, we find that women and younger individuals suffer more from nomophobia. The disparity in reporting the prevalence of nomophobia is enormous since the percentages of "at-risk" participants go from 13% to 79%, and participants suffering from it are between 6% and 73%, being the score in the range of 45.5 and 93.82. Within the group of nomophobic people, moderate cases vary between 25.7% and 73.3%, and severe cases, between 1% and 87%. Such disparity is due to differences in assessment criteria. Females and young people seem to be more vulnerable to nomophobia although methodological disparity makes it difficult to reach definitive conclusions. We conclude our review by recommending some common guidelines for guiding future research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Cell Phone
  • Databases, Factual
  • Humans
  • Internet Access
  • Phobic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Phobic Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Research
  • Sex Characteristics

Grants and funding

This research was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness, RTI2018-094212-B-I00: (CIBER-AACC), and PID2019-107589GB-I00, and it was also supported by the International University of La Rioja, Project Cyberpsychology (Triennium 2017-2020).