Mobile phone addiction as hard to quit as cigarettes

Mobile phone addiction as hard to quit as cigarettesText size. Givimg up a mobile phone can be as hard as quitting cigarettes.

Many Australians are as addicted to their mobiles as others are to nicotine, booze or drugs.

Deprived of their handsets, 20 per cent of phone junkies suffer increased heart rate and anxiety levels, a study has shown.

It also linked excessive phone use - or "nomophobia" - to failed relationships, emotional stress and falling literacy levels.


Stuck on the phone ... mobile addicts have been through three to five handsets / File

Queensland University of Technology researcher Diana James found phone addicts had mobiles for about 6.5 years and all were on to their third to fifth handset.

Use ranged from 1.5 to five hours a day and the average monthly bill was $140.

"Problem mobile phone users can't give up their handsets. They can't turn them off in my classes or at their workplace," Ms James said.

One user described the feeling of being deprived of the mobile like "one of my limbs is missing".

Another said: "If I go to work or somewhere and accidentally leave my phone at home, I literally get anxious."

But psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg says the jury is still out on mobile phone addiction.

"While this is one of the first studies, there is still no body of evidence to show 'nomophobia', the fear of being deprived of a mobile phone, is real," he said.

"Mobile phones have become almost a body part. The young digital generation seem to be born with a mouth and a mobile in the hand.

"But let's not lose our developmental perspective and realise when TV arrived some said it was the end of civilisation. We may be no more addicted to mobiles than we are to TV or a computer."

Saturation point

Mobile phone saturation reached 100 per cent in Australia last year.

"There are now more mobile phones than there are people to use them, with just about everyone having a couple of old ones in a drawer somewhere," says Optus spokeswoman Melissa Claire.

Mobile phone use is also spiralling, especially for texting. New terms are being coined to describe excessive users. They're described as "mobile addicts", "text addicts", "mobile junkies" and "problem users".

Policy makers and community groups warn while there is no hard data, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to link extreme use to rising levels of debt.

And to harassment of others and anti-social behaviour including making or taking calls in banned public spaces or while driving.

"The evidence shows mobile phones are the number one reason for young people's debt," Ms James said. /

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