Mobile Phone Addiction A New Health Crisis
A recent Australian study found that one in five mobile phone owners was
obsessed with their phone and potentially addicted to the device. Whilst this is an
alarming statement, the concept of mobile phone addiction is relatively new. This essay
will explore the setting, appeal, and symbolic meaning of the mobile phone, the notion of
“addiction versus dependency”; and, its behavioural repercussions. It will be argued that
mobile phone addiction could become one of the major non-drug addictions of our time.
Currently, mobile subscriptions are well into the billions world wide and growing.
It seems that everyone wants or owns a phone. Frighteningly, nine out of ten children in
England have a phone. Parents believe that the benefit of immediate communication is a
necessity, and therefore sanction and even promote phone ownership. This endorsement
and easy availability of cell phones are catapulting mobile phone possession to epidemic
proportion. It is this propagation rate and ownership pandemic which supports the
emergence of mobile phone addiction.
The concept of addiction is further sustained by several dynamic factors; namely,
the symbolic denotation of cell phones, our addiction for constant communication, and
the resulting fulfilment of our emotional drive. Nowadays, a mobile phone is an
individual artefact. Through their brand, colours and ring tones, mobile phones are seen
as an extension of the self. They become a form of symbolic expression which represents
our social status and group affiliation. By allowing the mobile phone to become an
expression of their social identity, most owners display signs of addiction; addiction
to the object itself and to its uses. Additionally, this symbolic connotation is
intensified by the need to be in perpetual contact with one another. At the core of mobile
phone addiction is the increased need to be constantly connected to others; and, the cell
phone is the perfect medium in which to indulge for this requirement of instant social
connection and gratification. Figuratively, being on the phone means that one is alive,
one exists, one is important. Some seek contact with the outside world through their
mobile phone to make sure that they are not forgotten or abandoned by their peers and
friends. Others want to uphold either a professional or social image through the same
medium. This is a crucial point in the understanding of mobile phone addiction. The
mobile phone feeds our personal requirement for providing a sense of value, guaranteeing
recognition from our friends or colleagues with whom communication must be constant.
Furthermore, the phone satisfies our emotional drive the same way drugs or cigarettes
do; it feeds a similar desire for attention and acceptability. In fact, the mobile phone plays
such an integral role in the lives of mostly young people and young adults, that it has
become an important part of who they are. In some cases, the mobile phone is becoming
their most precious asset. Without it they can not live, they can not reason sensibly. They
Contrarily, some would argue that addiction is too strong a word to describe the
increased reliance on the mobile phone. Instead, dependency is used to portray this new
phenomenon. It is true that only a small percentage of mobile phone users are affected. In
fact, a survey conducted in Australia shows that most of us are responsible with
our phone. One can use one’s phone regularly and for extended periods of time without
being addicted. Some are simply dependant on their favourite communication tool.
Besides, one can argue that mobile phone dependency could be healthy since it enables
one to keep one’s friends, and boost one’s ego and emotional state.
Yet, the same survey revealed that a significant portion of the population had
severe problems with their phones, most of us had become slave to our mobile. The
main difference between this type of addiction and drug use is that there are no
immediate physical symptoms, but mainly psychological ones. Mobile addicts spend
endless amounts of time on the phone, and suffer from disrupted sleep and poor social
habits. Switching off their phone cause them anxiety, irritability and stress.
In Spain, specialists treat mobile phone addiction with three months therapies. In china,
mobile phone addiction has been formally classified as the greatest growing mental
illness. Mobile phone addiction is a rising affliction.
In summary, it is true that mobile phone addiction currently affects only a small
part of our population. Most of us only exhibit some signs of phone dependency.
Nevertheless, this has the potential to change rapidly. The use of a mobile phone
correlates directly with our base need for instant communication. Its accessibility and
proliferation rate is unequivocal. By providing its users with instant gratification of self,
instant social acceptance, as well as instant happiness and contentment, the mobile
phone’s psychological effects directly equate to that of drug use. Anyone can become
vulnerable and obsessed. Current world wide data is undeniable, mobile phone addiction
is growing and is the major non-drug addiction of our time. Additionally, as more
features are added to the mobile phone’s panoply of functions, this addiction crisis will
only increase unless some steps are taken to either restrict its use, or provide training on
how to adequately use this technology.
1- The Australian, February 2007, ‘Phone Addiction Ruinous’. Retrieved 07 April 2008 from
2- Childalert News, 2007, ‘Children and the mobile phone! – an addiction, a necessity or just fun?’ Retrieved 07 April 2008 from
3- Expertguide, February 2007, ‘Study reveals our obsession with mobile phones’. Retrieved 04 April 2008 from
4- Expertguide, February 2007, ‘Study reveals our obsession with mobile phones’. Retrieved 04 April 2008 from
5- Sydney Morning Herald, December 2003, ‘Mobile phones becoming a major addiction’. Retrieved 04 April 2008 from
6- The Times of India, June 2003, ‘Mobile phone addiction plagues Chinese youth’. Retrieved 04 April 2008 from