Frequent Cell Phone Use Linked to Higher Anxiety and Lower GPA, Says New Study

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Source: “Do You Use Your Cell Phone a Lot? It Might Be Making You More Anxious,”, Dec. 15, 2013

High frequency cell phone use among college students is associated with higher anxiety, lower GPA, and lower overall “satisfaction with life,” according to a Feb. 2014 study in Computers in Human Behavior. On average, students reported spending 278.67 minutes per day using their cell phones and sending 76.68 text messages per day.

The study surveyed 536 undergraduate students at an unidentified public university in the midwestern United States. “Low” cell phone users (under 150 minutes and 30 texts a day) had an average GPA of 3.2 on a 4.0 scale, while “high” cell phone users (over 300 minutes and 80 texts a day) had an average GPA of 2.8, according to Jacob Barkley, Associate Professor of Exercise Science at Kent State University and co-author of the study. High frequency cell phone users also showed higher average anxiety on the Beck Anxiety Inventory, a common multiple-choice test used to evaluate prolonged anxiety. Both GPA and anxiety are significant contributors to overall life satisfaction, according to the study.

“There is growing evidence that college students’ cell phone use is negatively associated with academic performance as well as mental and physical health,” according to the study. “Thus, the development and testing of interventions designed to reduce college students’ cell phone use is warranted… [S]tudents should be encouraged to monitor their cell phone use and reflect upon it critically so that it is not detrimental to their academic performance, mental health, and subjective well-being or happiness.”

The authors note that high frequency cell phone users spend less time focused on attending class, completing homework assignments, and studying because a larger portion of their time is spent on cell phones. High frequency users are also more likely to use the phone for multitasking and task switching during class or while studying.

According to the study, some cell phone users may experience anxiety “as a result of a perceived and perhaps overwhelming obligation to remain constantly connected to various social networks through their phones.” Therefore it may be difficult for some users to “disconnect and find the solitude necessary to temporarily escape these perceived obligations. Occasional solitude can be an important component of well-being and an antidote to the pressures of daily life.”

Students who use Facebook had an average GPA of 3.06 while non-users had an average GPA of 3.82 and students who used social networking sites while studying scored 20% lower on tests. College students’ grades dropped 0.12 points for every 93 minutes above the average 106 minutes spent on Facebook per day. Two-thirds of teachers believe that social media does more to distract students than to help academically.


Jacob Barkley, Aryn Karpinski, and Andrew Lepp, “The Relationship between Cell Phone Use, Academic Performance, Anxiety, and Satisfaction with Life in College Students,” Computers in Human Behavior, Feb. 2014

Aaron Beck and Robert Steer, “Beck Anxiety Inventory” in Evaluating Stress: A Book of Resources, 1997

Jimmy Daly, “How Is Facebook Affecting College Students’ Grades [Infographic],”, July 2, 2012

Bob Jones, “Study: High Cellphone Usage Leads to Lower GPA and Higher Anxiety,”, Jan. 18, 2014

Paul A. Kirschner and Aryn C. Karpinski, “Facebook and Academic Performance,” Computers in Human Behavior, Nov. 2010

Leslie Lanir, “Digital Information Overwhelms and Distracts Students,”, Nov. 4, 2012