Israeli researchers focused on the fear of missing out, or ‘FOMO’, as manifested by smartphone fixation for fear of missing messages, posts or notifications. They found a direct correlation between device dependency and two markers of stress and anxiety: teeth grinding and jaw pain.
People who are less attached to their phones also sleep better, with less interrupted shut-eye.
‘We believe these symptoms are related to FOMO, fear of missing out,’ said Dr Pessia Friedman-Rubin, of Tel Aviv University’s dental school. ‘People are constantly using their phones because they are worried they will miss something. They check Whatsapp, Facebook and other apps.’
‘This creates a cycle of growing dependency on cellphones. This leads to feelings of stress and anxiety. The feeling that someone might write something on social media and I’ll miss it and not be in the loop. In short, phones are actually causing many people stress, and we’re seeing physical manifestations of this.’
The study of 600 people, all aged 18-35, by researchers at Tel Aviv University compared the reactions of regular smartphone users with those using so-called ‘kosher’ phones. Kosher phones are stripped of social media and most other apps.
Among regular smartphone users, 45% have a moderate to high need to constantly have their phones available. Some 50% feel their phone causes them a moderate to high level of stress. Among kosher phone users, only 22% feel the need to be available and just 20% think their device causes them stress.
The researchers reported a far higher incidence of anxious habits among regular smartphone users. They suggested it is due to their phone habits.
Some 24% of regular smartphone users reported teeth grinding during the day, and 21% at night. While for kosher phone users the figures were 6% and 7.5%, respectively. Some 29% of people who have regular devices suffered pain in their jaw muscles, but only 14% of the kosher phone users experience this pain.
At night, 54% of regular smartphone users find themselves waking up when they want to be asleep. Compared to 20% of kosher phone users.
Dr Friedman-Rubin said that the research isn’t intended to denigrate smartphone technology, but does suggest that people should set limits.
The study is due to be published in Quintessence International.