People's personality determines smartphone abuse

Those with higher levels of aggression, impulsivity, emotional instability and anxiety have problematic device use

People with a more aggressive, impulsive, emotionally unstable and anxious personalities make problematic or abusive use of smartphones. This has been determined by research led in Lleida by the Neurocognition, psychobiology of the personality and behavioral genetics research group at the University of Lleida and the Institute for Biomedical Research of Lleida (IRBLleida). The research has been published in the journal Current Psychology.

The study, carried out in collaboration with the Department of Social Psychology and Methodology of the Autonomous University of Madrid and the Autonomous University of Barcelona, was conducted using questionnaires with a sample of 1,562 people aged 18 to 90. The results of the research confirm the strong relationship between personality traits such as low self-esteem, anxiety, hostility, mood swings, the need for social approval, self-control, aggressiveness or the investigation of strong emotional feelings with problematic smartphone use. A situation that, according to the research, would affect young people and women of all social classes more. These personality traits predictive of problematic smartphone use have also been found in other addictive disorders, such as pathological gambling or substance use or food addictions. A negative relationship has also been found between smartphone abuse and work productivity.

Previous studies have already shown an increase in problematic smartphone use leading to sleep problems, anxiety, stress or depression, among others. Other research also highlights that these people have a low level of self-esteem that may cause them to seek social contact through smartphone use to mitigate anxiety.

Anton Aluja, professor at the University of Lleida and head of the Neurocognition, psychobiology of the personality and behavioral genetics research group, points out that "this research is an important breakthrough because problematic smartphone use can contribute to behavioural problems and disorders, especially in adolescents. Some of the psychopathological symptoms related to problematic smartphone use are social and generate family conflicts and confrontations, loss of interest in other activities, personal discomfort, dependence on the phone, difficulty controlling the need to be connected, feelings of irritability, mood swings due to the need to do it immediately or respond to messages. Special attention needs to be paid to prevention and treatment in school-based programmes to prevent such addictive behaviours".

This research has been made possible thanks to a grant from the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness (PID2019-103981RB-100).

Article: Urieta, P., Sorrel, M.A., Aluja, A. et al. Exploring the relationship between personality, decision-making styles, and problematic smartphone use. Curr Psychol (2022).

Research led from Lleida by the Neurocognition, Personality Psychobiology and Behavioural Genetics research group