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'Nomophobia' - Do you panic without your cell?

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Do you feel anxious without your mobile phone to hand? A new study suggests more people do than you may think.

Agoraphobic? If you're not frightened of spiders, how about suffering from claustrophobia, a fear of enclosed spaces instead? No? Well, do you have nomophobia?

What is it? The clue is in the name -- no mobile-phone-phobia. Sufferers experience stress or anxiety when they are separated from their mobile devices, and the phobia was first 'discovered' four years ago. The feelings you experience as a nomophobic individual when your device is not close by has been likened to a trip to the dentist or the wedding-day jitters.

Is this you? Is your phone ever turned off? You aren't alone, according to a new survey in the UK.

A recent survey conducted using OnePoll on behalf of SecurEnvoy found that 66 percent of 1,000 interviewees fear being deprived of their mobile devices.

Going even further than this, 41 percent of those surveyed admitted in a bid to always remain connected to a mobile network, they own two phones or more. Men are more likely to own at least two phones -- scoring 47 percent in comparison to 36 percent of women.

When the results were split in to age groups, it was found that those aged 18 - 24 are 'more nomophobic' than other groups -- scoring 77 percent, with the 25 - 35 age group coming in at 68 percent that state they feel stressed without their phone.

However, privacy is also an issue -- with almost half the respondents stating they would feel 'upset' if their partners scoured through their messages or texts. It seems reasonable to draw the conclusion that this is may be an issue of trust -- if someone looks through your messages, it may imply you have something to hide as communication is quick and immediate over mobile networks. This may be the reason as even though privacy is important, security does not appear to be:

  • 46 percent do not use security protection on their mobile devices;
  • 41 percent use a four-digit pin code;
  • 10 percent encrypt their device;
  • 3 percent use two-factor authentication.

As 58 percent of respondents stated at least one of their mobile devices are used for business purposes, the lack of security may be a cause for concern. Andy Kemshall, SecurEnvoy CTO and co-founder says:

"The first study into nomophobia, conducted four years ago, revealed that 53 percent of people suffered from the condition, and our study reveals this has now risen to 66 percent in the UK and shows no sign of abating.

A reversal on the 2008 findings is that, back then, it was men that were more afflicted yet today it's women. I’d be inclined to draw the conclusion that, perhaps because more men have two phones, they’re less likely to misplace both and therefore be left phone-less."

What the study does highlight is our increasing reliance on mobile devices, and introduction to them at an earlier age. 'Nomophobia' is likely to continue collecting more 'sufferers'. Children are growing up in a data-saturated environment, that often includes technology as a resource of entertainment or a means of communication.

If a means to 'stay connected' with a social group is removed, then it is a common affliction for people of any age to feel negative about such actions -- and as our dependence on it increases, if it is taken away, stress and anxiety follows.

Image credit: Gideon/Mailias

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Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure