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Prevalence and correlates of problematic smartphone use in a large random sample of Chinese undergraduates

  • Long, Jiang1, 2
  • Liu, Tie-Qiao1
  • Liao, Yan-Hui1, 3
  • Qi, Chang1
  • He, Hao-Yu1
  • Chen, Shu-Bao1
  • Billieux, Joël2, 4
  • 1 Central South University, The China National Clinical Research Center for Mental Health Disorders, National Technology Institute of Psychiatry, Key Laboratory of Psychiatry and Mental Health of Hunan Province, Mental Health Institute of the Second Xiangya Hospital, Changsha, Hunan, People’s Republic of China , Changsha (China)
  • 2 Université Catholique de Louvain, Laboratory for Experimental Psychopathology, Psychological Science Research Institute, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium , Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium)
  • 3 University of California, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences and Semel Institution for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, David Geffen School of Medicine, California, USA , California (United States)
  • 4 Cliniques Universitaires Saint-Luc, Internet and Gambling Disorders Clinic, Department of Adult Psychiatry, Brussels, Belgium , Brussels (Belgium)
Published Article
BMC Psychiatry
Springer (Biomed Central Ltd.)
Publication Date
Nov 17, 2016
DOI: 10.1186/s12888-016-1083-3
Springer Nature


BackgroundSmartphones are becoming a daily necessity for most undergraduates in Mainland China. Because the present scenario of problematic smartphone use (PSU) is largely unexplored, in the current study we aimed to estimate the prevalence of PSU and to screen suitable predictors for PSU among Chinese undergraduates in the framework of the stress-coping theory.MethodsA sample of 1062 undergraduate smartphone users was recruited by means of the stratified cluster random sampling strategy between April and May 2015. The Problematic Cellular Phone Use Questionnaire was used to identify PSU. We evaluated five candidate risk factors for PSU by using logistic regression analysis while controlling for demographic characteristics and specific features of smartphone use.ResultsThe prevalence of PSU among Chinese undergraduates was estimated to be 21.3%. The risk factors for PSU were majoring in the humanities, high monthly income from the family (≥1500 RMB), serious emotional symptoms, high perceived stress, and perfectionism-related factors (high doubts about actions, high parental expectations).ConclusionsPSU among undergraduates appears to be ubiquitous and thus constitutes a public health issue in Mainland China. Although further longitudinal studies are required to test whether PSU is a transient phenomenon or a chronic and progressive condition, our study successfully identified socio-demographic and psychological risk factors for PSU. These results, obtained from a random and thus representative sample of undergraduates, opens up new avenues in terms of prevention and regulation policies.

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