Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2018 Oct 17. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2018.0115.
Due to economic growth and educational development, China has become a popular study destination in recent years. However, little is known about this ever-expanding and diverse higher-education population in China. Rapidly adopted globally, smartphones may help international students adjust their life abroad and cope with bad feelings, while negative influence of smartphone addiction becomes a recent concern. To fill the gap, this study explores the levels of loneliness of international students in China. Integrating cultural dimensions theory and relevant research on smartphone addiction, the present study adopted online survey as main research method to examine the relationship between individualism, loneliness, smartphone use, and smartphone addiction. In total, 438 international students voluntarily participated in the survey. The participants were from 67 countries and have been studying in China for months. The results show international students in China as a high-risk population for both severe loneliness and smartphone addiction, with 5.3 percent of the participants experiencing severe loneliness and more than half of the participants exhibiting smartphone addiction symptoms. This study reveals predicting power of cultural individualism in explaining loneliness and significant mediation effects of loneliness and smartphone use. Those international students with lower degree of individualism showed higher degree of loneliness, which led to higher degree of smartphone use and smartphone addiction. Loneliness was found to be the strongest predictor for smartphone addiction. These findings should be noticed for prevention, intervention, and treatment for smartphone addiction among international students. Implications for academicians and practitioners are discussed.
KEYWORDS: individualism; international students; loneliness; smartphone addiction