An Innovative, Unobtrusive Approach to Investigate Smartphone Interaction in Nonaddicted Subjects Based on Wearable Sensors: A Pilot Study (2019)

Medicina (Kaunas). 2019 Feb 4;55(2). pii: E37. doi: 10.3390/medicina55020037.

Tonacci A1, Billeci L2, Sansone F3, Masci A4, Pala AP5, Domenici C6, Conte R7.


Background and objectives: Smartphones are playing a pivotal role in everyday life, due to the opportunity they grant in terms of simplifying communication, entertainment, education and many other daily activities. Against such positive characteristics, smartphone interaction can result, in particular cases, in dangerous smartphone addiction patterns, possibly leading to several long-term detrimental psychophysiological conditions. Therefore, this pilot aims at assessing the feasibility of using an innovative approach, based on unobtrusive wearable sensors, used for the first time in this specific topic, and psychological questionnaires, to investigate the links between stress and emotions in a group of young, nonaddicted individuals performing smartphone interaction. Materials and methods: 17 volunteers were enrolled for the present study. The study protocol was divided into three phases, with an initial resting state (baseline) of three minutes, a smartphone interaction session (task) of the same length, and a final resting state (recovery), lasting three minutes. In the overall procedure, electrocardiogram (ECG) and galvanic skin response (GSR) measurements, both monitored by wearable sensors, were acquired in order to assess the functioning of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Results: A significant decrease was seen in pNN50 during the smartphone interaction with respect to the baseline (Z = -2.675, p = 0.007), whereas the Low-to-High Frequency (LF/HF) ratio at task was somewhat correlated with phubbing behaviors (r = 0.655, p = 0.029), assessed through dedicated questionnaires. Conclusions: Taken together with the slight changes in GSR data, such results suggest the feasibility of this approach to characterize the ANS activation during smartphone interaction among young individuals. Further studies should enlarge the study population and involve smartphone-addicted subjects in order to increase the scientific and clinical relevance of such findings.

KEYWORDS: internet addiction; quality of life; smartphone addiction; social anxiety

PMID: 30720738

DOI: 10.3390/medicina55020037