Over-connected? A qualitative exploration of smartphone addiction among working adults in China (2019)

BMC Psychiatry. 2019 Jun 18;19(1):186. doi: 10.1186/s12888-019-2170-z.

Li L1, Lin TTC2.



Smartphones currently dominate people’s lives and interests due to their increased affordability and functionality. However, the negative aspects of smartphone use, such as smartphone addiction, have recently been brought up. This study utilized a qualitative approach to explore the symptoms of smartphone addiction among working adults in China and the psychological factors that affect such addiction.


Semi-structured interviews, either face to face or via Skype (online), were conducted with 32 Chinese workers. The collected data were analyzed using a thematic analysis approach in Nvivo 10 software.


This study identified four typical symptoms of smartphone addiction, namely, withdrawal (e.g., experiencing negative feelings when having no access to smartphones), salience (e.g., constant checking and thinking about smartphones), conflict (e.g., smartphone use interferes with family and work life), and phantom phone signals (e.g., illusory perception of a phone vibrating or ringing). Conscientiousness, neuroticism, and extroversion increase the likelihood of smartphone addiction. Notably, this study found that conscientious workers are likely to develop smartphone addiction, a finding that is contrary to those of the majority of existing studies on technological addiction.


This study revealed various smartphone addiction symptoms among young Chinese workers, and these include withdrawal, salience, conflicts, and phantom phone signals. Conscientious, neurotic, and extroverted employees are likely to exhibit these symptoms.


China; Psychological factors; Smartphone addiction; Symptoms; Working adults

PMID: 31215473

PMCID: PMC6582542

DOI: 10.1186/s12888-019-2170-z

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