Mindfulness mediates relations between anxiety with problematic smartphone use severity



A growing body of literature has demonstrated relations between mood- and anxiety-related psychopathology with problematic smartphone use (PSU) symptom severity. However, there has been little empirical inquiry of potential mediators of these relationships. The current study examined trait mindfulness and smartphone use expectancies as mediators of the relation between depression/anxiety and PSU severity in 352 undergraduate students. Participants completed an online survey that measured depression, anxiety, smartphone use expectancies, and PSU severity. Structural equation modeling demonstrated that trait mindfulness was inversely associated, and smartphone use expectancies were positively associated, with PSU severity. Trait mindfulness significantly mediated relations between anxiety and PSU severity. Results provide implications for understanding PSU within the context of theoretical models of PSU’s development, and highlight the role of mindfulness as an emotion regulation strategy and potential treatment for PSU.

mindfulness, problematic smartphone use, depression, anxiety, structural equation modeling
Author biographies

Caleb J. Hallauer

University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio, USA

Caleb Hallauer is a graduate student in clinical psychology at the University of Toledo. His research interests include problematic technology use (smartphones, video games, social media, etc.) and antecedent risk/protective factors, such as trauma, depression, anxiety, emotion regulation, and use expectancies.

Emily A. Rooney

University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio, USA

Emily Rooney is a clinical psychology graduate student at the University of Toledo. Her research interests are trauma-related psychopathology, subsequent risk/protective factors and transdiagnostic mechanisms, specifically emotion regulation.

Joel Billieux

University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland

Joël Billieux is associate professor of clinical psychology, psychopathology, and psychological assessment at the university of Lausanne, and Research Unit Director of the Cognitive and Affective Regulation Lab (CARLA), Institute of Psychology (IP), University of Lausanne. His main area of research regards the psychological factors (cognitive, affective, motivational, interpersonal) involved in the etiology of addictive behaviors, with a particular focus on self-regulation-related processes. Another focus of his research is the conceptualization and diagnosis of behavioral addictions. More recently, he also conducted research focusing on the effect of emerging technologies on human behavior.

Brian J. Hall

Center for Global Health Equity, NYU Shanghai, Shanghai, China

Brian J. Hall is a Professor of Global Public Health and Director of the Center for Global Health Equity at NYU Shanghai. He is also an Associated Full Professor at the School of Global Public Health, New York University, and an Associate Faculty Member in the Department of Health, Behavior and Society at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. His research agenda utilizes qualitative and quantitative approaches to address diverse population health inequalities (mental health, behavioral addiction, and sexual health) among migrants and minoritized or at-risk communities.

Jon Elhai

University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio, USA

Jon Elhai is Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Toledo. His primary area of research is in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), studying the disorder’s underlying dimensions, and relations with cognitive coping processes and externalizing behaviors. He also has a program of research on cyberpsychology, examining problematic internet and smartphone use. This is the corresponding author for the article (contact@jon-elhai.com).


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Additional information

First submission received:
January 8, 2021

Revision received:
June 12, 2021

Accepted for publication:
November 18, 2021

Editor in charge:
David Smahel







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