Inyang I, Benke G, Dimitriadis C, Simpson P, McKenzie R, Abramson M. Predictors of mobile telephone use and exposure analysis in Australian adolescents. J Paediatr Child Health. Ahead of print. Mar 10, 2010.
Almost all Australian adolescents are using mobile phones and thus are exposed to the radiofrequency (RF) radiation emitted by the handsets and associated base stations. It is possible that children and adolescents may be more vulnerable to RF emissions given their developing nervous systems.
Australian adolescents are not generally engaged in full-time employment, suggesting that their mobile phone use is not work related. The objective of this study was to investigate possible predictors of mobile phone use in young people.
This cross-sectional study was carried out in Melbourne, Australia between December 2005 and December 2006. Invitation to participate was randomly extended to schools with a Year 7 class. Exposure to RF energy from mobile phone was assessed by means of a self-administered questionnaire adapted from INTERPHONE. Possible determinants of mobile phone use in adolescent Australians were investigated using self-reported numbers of incoming and outgoing voice calls as an exposure metric. Each participant also completed an 81-item, self-administered Eysenck Personality Questionnaire. In addition, parents were also administered a questionnaire that asked about their child’s age, languages spoken at home apart from English and gender of child as well as possible concerns about children’s use of mobile phones. Parental socioeconomic status (SES) was assessed by residential postcode linked to socio-economic indexes for areas. This provided four summary indexes ranging from the most disadvantaged to the most advantaged based on geographic location.
There was a high prevalence of mobile phone use amongst Australian adolescents (94%). Males were significantly younger than females at age of first uptake of mobile phone (P value = 0.02). Participants without siblings were significantly younger at age of first uptake. Several personality traits were associated with regular mobile phone usage. Higher psychoticism scores were associated with regular use (incidence rate ratio (IRR) = 1.06, P = 0.03) and there was a tendency for students with higher extraversion scores to report higher mobile phone use. Parental socio-economic status was associated with mobile phone use, but parents who expressed moderate/high level concerns about possible health risks of use were more likely to have children who used mobile phone (odds ratio (OR) = 4.06, P = 0.05).
Interpretation and Limitations
Almost all adolescent Australians use mobile phone, but regular exposure was associated with personality traits. Parental socio-economic status and perceived health risks of mobile phone use were also associated with use of mobile phones. This study had several limitations. A self-administered questionnaire for exposure assessment was used which introduces a certain level of recall bias. Similar studies in the future would benefit from validation of adolescent self-reports. This was also a short term study; longitudinal studies are needed to assess the predictors of mobile phone use in the long term. Future studies should also investigate parental occupation for its tendency to influence use and age of first uptake of mobile telephones.
This study suggests that regular mobile phone exposure in Australian adolescents is associated with personality traits, parental SES and perceived health risks of use.