Cell Phone Addiction Driven By Impulsivity, Materialism: Study

The urges that drive cell phone and instant messaging addiction may be the same as those driving shopping addiction, a small new study suggests.

Baylor University and Seton Hall University researchers found that materialism and impulsiveness lie behind compulsive cell-phone use and instant messaging tendencies. Their findings are published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions.

Although cell phone addiction can be hard to define and is not yet defined in the DSM, experts say it is most often characterized by feelings of withdrawal if you don't have it, compulsive checking of the phone, and using it to feel good.

"At first glance, one might have the tendency to dismiss such aberrant cell phone use as merely youthful nonsense -- a passing fad," study researcher James Roberts, Ph.D., a professor of marketing at Baylor University, said in a statement. "But an emerging body of literature has given increasing credence to cell phone addiction and similar behavioral addictions."

The study is based on questionnaire results from 191 college students. The questionnaires were meant to assess the students' levels of impulsivity and materialism, as well as possible addiction to instant messaging and cell-phone use, using a metric called the Mobile Phone and Instant Messaging Addictive Tendencies Scale.

The researchers found a relationship between levels of impulsivity and materialism, and how likely the students were to express dependence on instant messaging or cell-phone use.

"However, researchers must be aware that one's addiction may not simply be to the cell phone, but to a particular activity or function of the cell phone," they wrote in the study. "The emergence of multi-function smart phones requires that research must dig beneath the technology being used to the activities that draw the user to the particular technology."

According to a recent study, Americans check their phones once an hour -- at least -- and nearly three out of four said that losing their phone would make them feel "panicked."

The fear of being out of contact with someone via mobile phone is called "nomophobia." A TIME magazine poll released earlier this year of people around the world showed that 84 percent of people don't think they could be separated from their phones for just one day.