So, we all like our mobile phones. Maybe a little too much. Maybe, it's gotten so bad that we actually need them. And perhaps that needy feeling is so strong, that when we're apart we begin to feel… separation anxiety. 

You may say, "not me", but a team of researchers from the University of Missouri has recently found that separation from smartphones during a basic cognitive test can have physiological impacts, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure. 

Furthermore, when people were temporarily separated from their smartphones, they seemed to be slightly less intelligent, underperforming on the tests. The results of the study - titled "The Extended iSelf" - were published in the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication. 

"Our findings suggest that iPhone separation can negatively impact performance on mental tasks," said lead author Russell Clayton in the University of Missouri press release

"Additionally, the results from our study suggest that iPhones are capable of becoming an extension of ourselves such that when separated, we experience a lessening of 'self' and a negative physiological state."

Forty smartphone users were asked to perform two five-minute word searches. These were performed individually. They were told by researchers that the objective of the experiment was to test the reliability of a new wireless blood-pressure monitor. 

Participants completed the first word search with their mobile phones handy. For the second test, however, the researchers took the phones away, telling participants that they were causing a signal interference, and disrupting the blood-pressure monitor. The phones were placed at an inaccessible distance within the room, but still within earshot. 

During the second test, the researchers called the phones at minute three. They allowed six rings before ending the call. The inability to answer these phone calls had a measurable impact on the participants.  

Heart rate and blood pressure increased during the second test, and participants reported heightened feelings of anxiety and "unpleasantness". They were also less adept at the tests, finding fewer words. 

The researchers suggest that attachment to mobile phones can result from the device's capacity to "provide information access, social interaction, and personal safety". And they highlight the fear of missing out (aka FOMO) as a possible explanation for the physiological symptoms, and feelings of anxiety they observed.

The researchers say their findings suggest it's a good idea to keep your phone nearby, especially when performing tasks that require concentration, such as taking a test, or sitting in a meeting (though it's probably a good idea to turn the ringer off).

It's not the first time that mobile phone separation has been linked to feelings of anxiety. A study commissioned by the UK Post Office in 2008 showed that 53 percent of mobile phone users in Britain felt anxiety when they lost their phones, or ran out of battery or credit. 

The study resulted in the terming of the coin: nomophobia (short for no mobile phone phobia). 

Of course, other research has shown that greater smartphone use has also been linked to anxiety and poorer academic performce.  

Maybe we just can't win. 

Source: Newsweek