Dependency on Smartphone Use and Its Association with Anxiety in Korea (2016)

Public Health Rep. 2016 May-Jun;131(3):411-9.

Lee KE1, Kim SH1, Ha TY1, Yoo YM1, Han JJ1, Jung JH1, Jang JY1.



South Korea has the highest rate of smartphone ownership worldwide, which is a potential concern given that smartphone dependency may have deleterious effects on health. We investigated the relationship between smartphone dependency and anxiety.


Participants included 1,236 smartphone-using students (725 men and 511 women) from six universities in Suwon, South Korea. Participants completed measures of smartphone use, smartphone dependency, anxiety, and general characteristics (i.e., demographic, health-related, and socioeconomic characteristics). To measure smartphone dependency and anxiety, we used questionnaires of Yang’s test developed from Young’s Internet Addiction Test and Zung’s Self-Rating Anxiety Scale. We used multiple logistic regression to determine the association between smartphone dependency and anxiety after adjusting for relevant factors.


On a scale from 25 to 100, with higher scores on the smartphone dependency test indicating greater dependency, women were significantly more dependent on smartphones than were men (mean smartphone dependency score: 50.7 vs. 56.0 for men and women, respectively, p<0.001). However, the amount of time spent using smartphones and the purpose of smartphone use affected smartphone dependency in both men and women. Particularly, when daily use time increased, smartphone dependency showed an increasing trend. Compared with times of use <2 hours vs. ≥6 hours, men scored 46.2 and 56.0 on the smartphone dependency test, while women scored 48.0 and 60.4, respectively (p<0.001). Finally, for both men and women, increases in smartphone dependency were associated with increased anxiety scores. With each one-point increase in smartphone dependency score, the risk of abnormal anxiety in men and women increased by 10.1% and 9.2%, respectively (p<0.001).


Among this group of university students in South Korea, smartphone dependency appeared to be associated with increased anxiety. Standards for smartphone use might help prevent deleterious health effects.