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Problematic Smartphone Use and Its Impact on the Psychology of Adolescents in Malaysia

Hazwanim Hashim, Hizlinda Tohid, Teh Rohaila Jamil, Nik Ruzyanei Nik Jaafar and Shamsul Azhar Shah

Pertanika Journal of Science & Technology, Volume 31, Issue 2, June 2023


Keywords: Adolescents, anxiety, depression, Malaysia, problematic use, smartphone, stress

Published on: 16 June 2023

This study aims to determine the prevalence of problematic smartphone use (PSU) among secondary school adolescents and to examine its relationship with psychological problems (depression, anxiety, and stress [Model 1], or the number of psychological problems [Model 2]). This cross-sectional study has utilised a self-administered questionnaire assessing the participants’ sociodemographic and clinical characteristics, pattern and purpose of usage, presence of PSU (via the Malay-version smartphone addiction scale-short version [SAS-SV]), and presence of psychological problems (via the depression-anxiety-stress scale-21 [DASS-21]). Four hundred and fourteen students aged 15–16 from five national secondary schools in Seremban and smartphone users have been recruited via cluster sampling. Students in remedial or special education classes, previously diagnosed with depression, anxiety or stress and absent on the day of data collection were excluded. The prevalence of PSU, probable depression, anxiety and stress were 43.5%, 31.6%, 48.3% and 26.8%, respectively. Most respondents reported mild to moderate severity for each psychological problem. However, three in ten respondents had multiple psychological problems. In both multiple logistic regression models, Malay students had higher daily usage, and the higher monthly costs were significantly associated with PSU when other confounding factors were controlled. A higher number of psychological problems was associated with PSU (adjusted odds ratio: 1.28, 95% confidence interval: 1.06–1.54; p=0.011) but not purpose of usage or individual psychological problem. PSU and psychological problems were prevalent among secondary school adolescents. These findings highlight the complex relationship between PSU and psychological problems that warrant further detailed studies.

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