Is Your Cell Phone Making You Unhappy?

285 CellPhoneIt’s a simple little device that is supposed to make your life easier, but convenience isn’t always the shortest route to happiness. It turns out, your cell phone might be increasing your anxiety and decreasing your happiness.

This probably comes as no surprise. We joke about smart phones making us dumber and technology leaving us feeling less, rather than more, connected. But this is no joke—that little phone may have lasting consequences on your emotional well-being.

Researchers at Kent State University conducted a study among college students to determine the relationship between cell phone use and happiness. They measured daily cell phone use, administered Beck’s Anxiety Inventory (a clinical measure of anxiety) and surveyed participants about their satisfaction with life. What’s more, they compared all of this information with students’ grade point average (GPA).

The results were telling: high frequency cell phone users had lower GPAs, higher anxiety, and lower levels of happiness compared to their peers who used cell phones less often. The researchers noted that the statistical model illustrating these relationships was highly significant—and concluded that increased cell phone use may negatively impact academic performance, mental health, and subjective well-being or happiness.

Even if you’re not a college student, the implications are clear—frequent cell phone use may interfere with performance, whether academic or professional. That compromised performance and increased anxiety can lead us down a slippery slope to unhappiness.


Cell Phone Addiction

For some people, frequent cell phone use translates to real addiction. In fact, there is even a term for cell phone addiction: nomophobia, which is an abbreviation for no-mobile-phone phobia. If that sounds silly, consider this: seventy-seven percent of people between the ages of 18 and 24 report being uncomfortable when they are away from their phones for more than a few minutes.

Some telltale signs of cell phone addiction:

  • Being unable to turn your phone off—ever
  • Worrying about running out of battery power
  • Constantly checking for new emails, text messages, and phone calls
  • Taking your phone to the restroom with you

Like any addiction, cell phone addiction can become a barrier to true connection and intimacy. Some drug and alcohol centers now offer rehab programs for people suffering from nomophobia.


Striking a Balance

Of course, not all cell phone use is bad. The devices are likely here to stay—and they do provide a certain level of convenience. The key—as with anything else—is moderation.

To strike a balance in your cell phone use, consider adopting some new habits:

  • Turn your phone off at night.
  • Keep your ringer turned off or turned down low to minimize the anxiety that can result from constant noisy interruptions.
  • Power down during working hours to increase productivity and reduce interruptions.
  • Leave your phone behind whenever possible—go for a walk, visit with friends, see a movie, visit a bookstore, or find some other way to disconnect from technology and connect with life.



Lepp A, Barkley JE, Karpinski AC. The relationship between cell phone use, academic performance, anxiety, and Satisfaction with Life in college students. Computers in Human Behavior. 2014; 31: 343-350.