Being Separated From Your Smartphone Causes Anxiety

Life & Love | Gerren Keith Gaynor | 01/14/2015 | 09:00 AM EST

Study finds that being attached to your cellular device does more than distract you

Ever been away from your phone for an extended period of time and felt paranoid that maybe there’s a call or text waiting for you? Well you’re not alone. In fact, science says phone separation hinders cognitive performance and causes anxiety, at least according to a new study.

The results of the study “suggest that iPhones are capable of becoming an extension of ourselves such that when separated, we experience a lessening of ‘self’ and a negative physiological state,” lead author Russell Clayton said in a release from the University of Missouri.

The researchers had 40 participants work on two word search puzzles. One while their phones were with them and the other while their iPhones were about 4 feet away. The experts measured their blood pressure and heart rates during the first activity. During the second puzzle, researchers called the participants’ phones. Once the devices had stopped ringing, the team collected the information again.


Surprisingly (or not) researchers found that the participants’ blood pressure and heart rates “increased significantly” when they were unable to answer their phones during the puzzle activity. The participants also reported higher anxiety levels.

The participants’ performance level--which was measured by the number of words found--dropped when the participant was separated from his or her phone, researchers said.

Though the study specifically targeted iPhone users, it’s a safe assumption that similar results would be found among non-iPhone users too.

The study adds that smartphone separation anxiety can impact things other than focusing on a simple word puzzle or other cognitive tasks, but also in all areas of our lives including communicating with strangers, friends and family, colleagues, and the like.

“Simply not being able to answer one's iPhone may reduce attention toward those daily interactions,” the study’s conclusion reads. “In addition, separation from one's iPhone may also impact allocation of mental resources to processing media, which raises several potential questions for message processing scholars.”

Maybe it’s about time we learned how to unplug and re-learn how to function without so much technology around us. If only it were that easy.

(Photo: Michael Patrick O'Leary/Corbis)

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