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Problematic smartphone usage, prevalence and patterns among university students: A systematic review

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posted on 2023-09-05, 10:37 authored by Catharina J Candussi, Russell Kabir, Madhini Sivasubramanian


In the last decade, smartphones have become an indispensable part of our daily life. However, little is known of when smartphone usage becomes problematic and how it can affect mental and physical health. Therefore, this paper aims to analyse to which extent university students suffer from problematic smartphone usage (PSU) and if there are recognisable patterns or predictive factors.


This systematic review used the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guideline. To identify eligible primary research studies, a pre-defined search strategy was carried out in four databases, including Cochrane databases, CHINAL Plus, MEDLINE, and PubMed. The obtained literature was screened using inclusion and exclusion criteria and critically appraised with the AXIS tool resulting in 11 peer-reviewed studies in English.


The prevalence of PSU in university students varied between 36.5% and 67%, with a mean of 52%. Across the literature, PSU was significantly associated with mental health problems like depression, and anxiety. Furthermore, smartphone overuse can lead to physical problems (e.g., neck pain or eye strain) and negatively influence university students' academic performance and sleep quality. Our results suggest that the duration spends on the phone is a potential predictive factor for PSU.


Most studies in this systematic review are cross-sectional; therefore, no causal explanations can be given. Moreover, the measurement scales used are based on self-reported answers, which carry the risk of recall bias.


This study demonstrates that PSU is very common and needs to be considered in the population group of university students. More longitudinal studies are required in order to identify causal relationships between PSU and possible predictive factors.



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Journal of Affective Disorders Reports




Elsevier BV

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