Research Article: Prevalence of problematic cell phone use in an adult population in Spain as assessed by the Mobile Phone Problem Use Scale (MPPUS)

Date Published: August 3, 2017

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): José de-Sola, Hernán Talledo, Fernando Rodríguez de Fonseca, Gabriel Rubio, Aviv M. Weinstein.


Problematic cell phone use has alarmingly increased in industrialized countries in the past 10 years. For many perpetrators, it can turn into a behavioural addiction, although this is not a recognized medical condition. Although there are many tools for evaluating this use, one of the most widely used tools is the Mobile Phone Problematic Use Scale (MPPUS), which we test on a representative sample of the population in Spain to obtain an estimate of the prevalence of problematic cell phone use in our midst. The age range consists of 16–65 years, with 1,126 surveys conducted. In this population, we verify that the reliability and internal consistency of the MPPUS (α = 0.939) are maintained. Additionally, the construct validity, considering the derived factors (Abuse and Dependence, Craving and Loss of Control, and Dependence on the Social Environment) are aligned with other research and with diverse external criteria of addiction. We establish four categories of users (Casual, Regular, At Risk, and Problematic) and obtain a prevalence of 15.4% among At Risk Users and 5.1% among Problematic Users. This finding implies a total of 20.5% of Users with Problems. A binary logistic regression analysis shows that age, gender, level of education, and daily cell phone use predict problematic cell phone use. The results, based on multiple criteria, show that such problematic use shares features of recognized addictions, affecting large segments of the population and not only adolescents.

Partial Text

The need for social contact and relationships with other people is an essential part of human nature. Communication styles have evolved throughout history to the most modern means such as cell phones. Even these have steered towards the most sophisticated applications, in which, presently, texts are more important than actual calls. Furthermore, there has been a shift from interpersonal communication to simultaneous group communication mostly in written form, in which the written word substitutes for oral conversations. A recent study shows that, currently, there already are more cell phones than people. In 2016, the percentage of cell phones categorized as smartphones in Europe was 78% whereas, in Spain, it was 87%. We already have more smartphones than computers. On average, a Spaniard uses his or her smartphone for approximately three and a half hours every day, with email, instant messaging, and surfing the web being the main uses. In turn, the age of first use is constantly decreasing, with 98% of adolescents (10–14 years of age) owning their next generation data terminal [1], even though at two and three years of age, most play with their parents’ cell phones [2,3].

The objective of this study was based on the analysis of problematic cell phone use in a population aged 16 to 65 years in Spain. Our hypothesis was based on the assumption that problematic use would extend beyond the adolescent population, which is the main object of a large portion of already published research. In addition, we analyzed factors indicating whether problematic cell phone use might be comparable with other behavioral addictions.




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