Separation from iPhone can lead to anxiety: study

Separation from iPhone can lead to anxiety: study

iPhones are become an extension of the self, whose loss leads to a lessening of 'self'.

(Source: ThinkStock images)
(Source: ThinkStock images)

Separation from cell phone can have serious psychological and physiological effects on iPhone users, including poor performance on cognitive tests, a new study has found.

Researchers from the University of Missouri suggest that iPhone users should avoid parting with their phones during daily situations that involve a great deal of attention, such as taking tests, sitting in conferences or meetings, or completing important work assignments, as it could result in poorer cognitive performance on those tasks.

“Our findings suggest that iPhone separation can negatively impact performance on mental tasks,” Russell Clayton, a doctoral candidate at the MU School of Journalism and lead author of the study, said.

“The results from our study suggest that iPhones are capable of becoming an extension of our selves such that when separated, we experience a lessening of ‘self’ and a negative physiological state,” said Clayton.


Clayton, along with Glenn Leshner, former professor at MU, now at the University of Oklahoma and Anthony Almond, doctoral student at Indiana University-Bloomington, found that when users are unable to answer their ringing iPhones while solving simple word search puzzles, their heart rates and blood pressure levels increased, as did feelings of anxiety and unpleasantness.

Also, performance (number of words found on word search puzzles) decreased as compared to when iPhone users completed similar word search puzzles while in possession of their iPhones, researchers said.

The researchers asked iPhone users to sit at a computer cubicle in a media psychology lab.

Participants completed the first word search puzzle with their iPhone in their possession and the second puzzle without iPhone in their possession or vice versa while the researchers monitored their heart rates and blood pressure levels.

While completing the first puzzle, researchers recorded participants’ heart rate and blood pressure responses. Participants then reported their levels of anxiety and how unpleasant they felt during the word search puzzle.

Next, and while in possession of their iPhones, participants were informed that their iPhones were causing “Bluetooth interference” and that they needed to be placed further away in the room for the remainder of the experiment.

The researchers then provided the participants a second word search puzzle. While working on the puzzle, the researchers called the participants’ iPhones.

They found a significant increase in anxiety, heart rate and blood pressure levels, and a significant decrease in puzzle performance when the participants were separated from their iPhones as compared to when users completed similar word search puzzles while in possession of their iPhones.

The study was published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication.