Background and aims: The literature has proposed two types of problematic smartphone/internet use: generalized problematic use and specific problematic use. However, longitudinal findings on the associations between the two types of problematic use and psychological distress are lacking among EastAsians. The present study examined temporal associations between both generalized and specific problematic use of the smartphone/internet, and psychological distress. Methods: Hong Kong University students (N = 308; 100 males; mean age = 23.75 years; SD ± 5.15) were recruited with followups at three, six, and nine months after baseline assessment. All participants completed the Smartphone Application-Based Addiction Scale (for generalized problematic smartphone/internet use), the Bergen Social Media Addiction Scale (for specific problematic smartphone/internet use), and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (for psychological distress) in each assessment. Latent growth modeling (LGM) was constructed to understand temporal associations between generalized/specific problematic use and psychological distress. Results: The LGM suggested that the intercept of generalized problematic use was significantly associated with the intercept of psychological distress (standardized coefficient [β] = 0.32; P < 0.01). The growth of generalized problematic use was significantly associated with the growth of psychological distress (β = 0.51; P < 0.01). Moreover, the intercept of specific problematic use was significantly associated with the intercept of psychological distress (β = 0.28; P < 0.01) and the growth of psychological distress (β = 0.37; P < 0.01). Conclusion: The initial level of problematic use of smartphone/internet increased the psychological distress among university students. Helping young adults address problematic use of the smartphone/internet may prevent psychological distress.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
- Clinical Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health