A new study has revealed which countries have the heaviest rates of smartphone addiction in the world and found that China ranks the highest, followed by Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, with neither the UK nor the US featuring in the top ten.
The study found that problematic smartphone use can result in “psychological consequences” as defined by a common scale of smartphone addiction which was used to compile the country ranking.
Examining smartphone addiction global data
The researchers from McGill University looked at data between 2014 and 2020 from 81 previously published studies with 30,000 participants in 24 countries. All the studies reviewed used the Smartphone Addiction Scale (SAS) which is the most widely used global scale to measure and diagnose smartphone addiction.
The SAS looks at issues like how much smartphone use is impacting on daily life, how uncontrolled the use of smartphones is, and any withdrawal symptoms from smartphone addiction. The subjects in the studies were adolescents and young adults, from 15 to 35 years old, with an average age of 28.8 years. 60% of the subjects were women.
Using the SAS, the McGill researchers calculated each country’s problematic smartphone use, using a score from 10 to 60. China ranked highest on the global table, with a score of 36 out of 60. The UK only ranked 16th in the world but was still ahead of the US (ranked at 18), France (23) and Germany (24). Interestingly, the bottom four countries were all European.
Why do some countries suffer more than others?
The researchers looked at possible reasons behind the different scores in different countries and speculated they could be the social norms and cultural expectations related to the motivation to stay connected via smartphones. They suggested that countries like Germany and France are “individualistic and culturally loose,” making them less likely to promote such norms, whereas countries like China and Malaysia are arguably less individualistic and more collectivist – where people act in the interests of the group and not necessarily of themselves.
Despite the variation in country scores, the researchers concluded that problematic smartphone use is growing across all countries of the world, no surprise to anyone working in this field.
Take the smartphone addiction test yourself
The researchers have put together a website for anyone to test their own phone addiction and see how they compare to other people around the world. If you think you might love your own smartphone a little too much, why not give it a go and see how you rank?
My latest book My Brain Has Too Many Tabs Open contains 24 stories of people I’ve met and helped with their own problematic use of their smartphones.