An Investigation into the Positive and Negative Health Effects of Usage of Smartphones on Raffles Institution Year 1 Students
Year 1 Research Education Project Report 2011
Koh Teng Chun (12), Law Shao Yu (13), Lee Yuan (14), Leong Zhiming (15), Justin Lim (16) – 1P
Year 1 Research Education 2011
Social Survey Report
An Investigation into the Positive and Negative Health Effects of Usage of Smartphones on Raffles Institution Year 1 Students
1P - Koh Teng Chun (12), Law Shao Yu (13), Lee Yuan (14), Leong Zhiming (15), Justin Lim (16)
Statement of problem
Many Singaporeans own smartphones. It is the most popular type of phone here in Singapore. In fact, 90% of the phones sold here are smartphones, compared to 20% worldwide. (Chua, 2011, p. A10) Many people associate smartphones with poor health, but there are actually some health benefits from using smartphones.
When “smartphones” and “youths” are brought up in a conversation, it is likely to be followed by words and phrases such as “addicted”, “horrible”, “rebellious”, “games”, “apps”, “Facebook” and “shouldn’t have gotten the phone in the first place”. It is definitely true that many youths are addicted to playing games and surfing the Internet on their smartphones. According to a report, more than eight in 10 youngsters addicted to video games in Singapore remain hooked two years after they first developed the problem, and spending too much time playing the games makes illnesses such as depression worse. (Chua, Poon, 2011, p. B12) Since smartphones follow their owners almost everywhere they go, this would surely make the addiction worse.
However, there are certain health benefits of owning smartphones. Some smartphones are equipped with applications that track physical activity. The devices will not only monitor whether you’re sitting or walking, but they’ll also detect any changes to your workout regimen or physical fitness. (Ohlsson, 2010) These applications would therefore cause their users to become more health conscious, since their daily activities are monitored. This is definitely useful, since a recent National Health Survey shows the obesity rate has increased from 6.9 per cent in 2004 to 10.8 per cent in 2010. (Khamid, 2010) Obviously, Singaporeans are getting fatter, and these applications will help to amend this.
Purpose of Study:
This Social Survey seeks to identify the fundamental reason of the health effects experienced by RI Year 1 Smartphone users. As such, we will use the results to conclude on the type of action required to curb health problems caused by smartphones. At the same time, the survey also helps in creating awareness among the respondents about health smartphone applications and its benefits to users. We hope to spread the word to respondents and others around them, that smartphone games may be addictive, just like alcohol and substance abuse. In this way, we will help in curbing addiction to smartphone apps among Year 1 RI students. On the other hand, we also hope to spread the word on the benefits of smartphones on health so that they will use those applications (if any). All in all, we seek to try to come up with various methods to curb health problems of smartphone usage and also addiction to smartphones.
A social survey comprising around 6 questions was carried out from 3 to 5 August. Respondents were mostly from 1P but about half came from other class as well. All respondents owned a smartphone and the distribution of smartphone brands were evenly spread out, with Apple and Sony Ericsson being the most popular brands.
The objectives of this survey were:
To assess the extent of addiction of Year 1 RI students to smartphone applications.
To evaluate various methods to curb the addiction and other health problems of smartphone usage.
To assess how many students know of the existence of health applications or how many students use them.
To spread awareness among the respondents regarding health smartphone applications and their benefits.
We designed and administered a survey consisting of 6 (1 to 6a, b and c) questions to a group of 20 Raffles Institution Year 1 students. Approximately half the sample size consisted of 1P students, whereas the other half were from other classes. We also made sure that the individuals doing the survey were of an even mix of incomes, even though some respondents declined to reveal the monthly income.
As the sample size of 20 was relatively small, we also had an even mix of smartphone brands, to give a distribution of perspectives of users of different smartphone brands. However, as we were surveying Year 1 RI students, there could not be a distribution of gender, age and education level. All respondents were 13 years old with an education level of up to Secondary 1. We took pains to ensure that the questions were phrased with clarity and were relevant. They were also structured to make sure that the data received would be constructive. First, we administered a pilot survey to 10 people beforehand. Then, we used the feedback received to modify and improve our survey before actually carrying out the survey. The questions in the survey were generally not sensitive and thus there was a 100% response to almost all the questions. The only exception was the slightly sensitive demographic question regarding the monthly income. About a quarter of the respondents declined to reveal their monthly income. We decided to incorporate the blank responses under a header called “Unknown” and thus allowed us to be able to complete our analysis successfully. We also assured the respondents in our survey that their responses would remain confidential.
Profile of 20 Respondents by Class, Model of Smartphone, and Average Monthly Income:
*Note: Some of the questions allowed the students to choose more than 1 option, therefore the total may not tally to 20.
To further investigate the seriousness of psychological and their health effects of smartphone usage, a social survey was administered to 20 Raffles Institution Year 1 students.
Amount of Time Spent on Smartphone
Overall, respondents reported controlled smartphone usage, with 65% reporting that they use their smartphones for about 2 to 5 hours per week.
However, this may be flawed, as the background of our respondents was not well distributed and more than half came from our class, 1P.
Figure 1.1. Percentage of Respondents by amount of time spent on smartphone each week.
Such a response indicates that most students are generally not considered addicted to their smartphones, with the median amount of time spent on smartphones being in the region of 3 to 4 hours. We can thus conclude that students are able control their smartphone usage. We have pegged excessive smartphone usage at more than 10 hours a week, or more than 1.5 hours a day. Based on the results, few of the respondents - two of them (10%) - reported what was considered as excessive smartphone usage.
When we compared these statistics to the classes of the respondents, we found that there was no direct relationship between the classes of the respondents and the time spent on their smartphones.
Table 1: Time spent on Smartphone per month by classes (%)
Time spent on Smartphone per Week (h)
Less than 1 (%)
2 to 5 (%)
5 to 10 (%)
More than 10 (%)
NOTE: All percentages are rounded off to 2 decimal places (0.01)
The table above reveals that there is no clear relationship between class and time spent on smartphone. As the classes in Raffles Institution are grouped based on Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) results, we then can continue by saying that there was no direct relationship between one’s PSLE result and the amount of time one spends on smartphones.
However, we can conclude that RI Year 1 students are largely conservative in their usage of smartphones, with only 1 student each from 1M and 1J stating that they use their smartphone for more than 10 hours a day. On the other side on the spectrum, almost no students, save 3 from 1P, said that they at least use their smartphone for 1 hour per week. This also means that smartphone has become such an integral part of our lives that most students have to use it regularly, but not to an excess.
Type of Smartphone Usage
Next, we wanted to find out about the how Year 1 pupils make use of smartphones. Options included Social Networking and Games. The data was classified and was used to create the following graph:
Figure 1.2. Frequency of the different types of usage of smartphones
Most of the options, as reflected in the graph, were relatively evenly distributed among all five measures of frequency. Most respondents indicated that they did not stick to one form of smartphone usage particularly frequently. However, forms of entertainment, including games and music, was very popular among the respondents, with 30% of the respondents saying that they always used their smartphones to listen to music and also play games. This is an indication of the popularity and attraction of games and music among secondary school students.
Another interesting thing to note is that none of the respondents said that they never use their smartphone for work-related reasons like checking e-mail. This shows that still, the fundamental advantage that smartphones have over normal phones is the ability to connect to the internet and also do work on the go.
Direct Health Effects
The respondents were also asked whether they had experienced any direct health effects as a result of smartphone usage.
We first went to investigate on the negative direct health effects of smartphones. However, responses were little and many said that they did not experience any negative ailments at all.
Figure 1.3. Negative direct health effects of smartphone usage
From Figure 1.3, we can interpret that most students (17) feel that smartphones do not bring about any direct health problems.
Although the data was not what we had expected, there could be certain reasons contributing to such a set of responses. Firstly, the negative health effects are generally seen to be in the long term, and thus Year 1 RI students, who on average have only used the smartphone for about 2 to 3 years, would not be likely to be experiencing such health effects. At the same time, certain symptoms such as myopia may also be the effects of other activities strenuous to the eyes, such as reading. Therefore, smartphone users may not be able to conclude whether their myopia was caused by reading or smartphone usage.
Since many students felt there were no negative direct health effects of smartphone usage, we thought that there might be more positive direct health effects of smartphones usage, such as smartphones helping to spread health awareness. However, our results proved otherwise. In fact, 16 of our respondents did not use their smartphones for health purposes, which meant that smartphones did not contribute to the positive direct health effects.
Figure 1.4. Positive direct health effects of smartphone usage
Figure 1.4 distinctly show the ways in which RI Year 1 students use their smartphones for positive health purposes. Apparently, only 4 respondents use their smartphones for positive health purposes, by downloading exercise tracking applications which can help them (such as show the calories burnt, distance ran etc.) while they exercise. The rest of our 20 respondents did not use their smartphones for health purposes, which meant that smartphones have failed in improving people’s - especially RI Year 1 student’s – health, and also in the aspect of spreading health awareness.
Therefore, we can safely conclude that the usage of smartphones generally do not bring about many positive or negative direct health effects to RI Year 1 students.
Psychological Effects on Worklife
Other than the direct health effects, we also went on to investigate the psychological effects brought about by the usage of smartphones.
We first decided investigate the psychological health effects on worklife. Before we went on to find out how smartphones affect the psychological health of RI Year 1 students, we wanted to find out how they use their smartphones for work-related activities.
Results show that most respondents felt smartphones enabled them to read emails more frequently on their smartphones instead of on a computer to save time. However, few thought that this was trouble as only 6 respondents felt that they kept having to read incoming emails. Other than this, respondents also thought that smartphones made it easier for them to browse the internet and read documents more efficiently and contact others more easily.
Overall, most RI Year 1 students use their smartphones for work-related activities. With this information in mind, we proceeded to investigate on the negative psychological effects of smartphones on the worklife of RI Year 1 students.
Figure 1.6. Negative psychological effects of smartphones on worklife
From Figure 1.6, we can see that excessive stress, frustration and worries on student’s worklife brought about by smartphone usage was selected a total of 12 times. This could be due to having to read more emails, receiving more SMSes and calls etc.
We had initially believed that stress and frustration might be a major symptom for smartphone users. Many students who own smartphones are actually compelled to check their e-mail and also go to Facebook for updates. Smartphones will definitely make it easier to complete such a task. As such, with constant checking and worrying about social networking and e-mail, the smartphone may inadvertently bring about stress for users. However, as both options (stress and frustration) were only selected a total of 8 times, we can only say that this is a mild problem.
Out of the 20 respondents, 11 felt that smartphones did not bring about any negative psychological effects. From Figure 1.5, we can interpret that many students find smartphones bring more convenience than troubles, which probably explains why more than half of our respondents thought that smartphones did not have any negative psychological effects on their worklife.
Following this, we decided to find out more about the positive psychological effects smartphones on the worklife of RI Year 1 students.
Figure 1.7. Positive psychological effects of smartphones on worklife
Figure 1.7 shows that many of our respondents (9) thought that smartphones helped to reduce their stress in terms of worklife. Figure 1.5 tells us that smartphones help many Year 1 students to browse the internet more easily, read emails more frequently and contact others easily. Therefore, we can actually see a tally in our results – smartphones could ease the work of Year 1 students due to its many functions. Students can use their smartphones to do work while waiting and travelling to save time, so they would not have as much work when they return home.
Despite the above findings, another lot of our respondents (8) felt that smartphones did not bring about any positive psychological effects. A possible reason for this is that smartphones have their limitations, and some of our respondents probably cannot do much work on their smartphones, so the stress reduced from their worklife is quite insignificant.
However, since majority of our respondents felt that smartphones have a positive psychological impact on their worklife, we can conclude that smartphones have a strong positive psychological effects on the worklife of most RI Year 1 students.
Overall, we can see that smartphones do not bring about much negative psychological effects on the worklife of RI Year 1 students, but has a great impact regarding the positive psychological effects that smartphones have on their worklife.
Psychological Effects Due to Social Networking on Smartphones
Moving on, we decided to investigate further into the psychological effects of using social networking on smartphones. As smartphones have made it more convenient for its users to go on social networking platforms as and when they would like to, we felt it would be interesting to see how it will affect RI Year 1 students psychologically.
First, we decided to find out about the possible benefits and setbacks of using social networking on smartphones, on our respondents.
Figure 1.8. Possible benefits/setbacks of using social networking on smartphones
Figure 1.8 shows that most Year 1 students found it easier to keep in touch with their friends on the social networking platforms by going onto their smartphones, as smartphones provide easier access to these social networking platforms.
However, quite a handful of respondents raised that after using social networking on their smartphones, they feel that they have wasted too much time. A couple of respondents also began to feel tired after spending too much time going onto social networking platforms on their smartphones.
Those who selected “others” generally did not use social networking on their smartphones.
After finding out the benefits and drawbacks, we moved on to investigating on the negative psychological effects that may take place due to using of social networking on smartphones.
Figure 1.9. Negative psychological effects of using social networking on smartphones
From the above Figure 1.9, we can deduce that many of our respondents do not think there are any negative psychological effects of using social networking on smartphones. Perhaps this is because they think using social networking on smartphones is more of a boon than a bane.
On the other hand, 4 of our respondents say that they feel more tired after using social networking on their smartphones. This can be supported by the fact that some of our respondents think they have wasted too much time and feel tired after using social networking on their smartphones, in Figure 1.8.
Seeing that there are not much negative psychological effects of using social networking on smartphones, we predicted that there would be a greater impact of positive psychological effects.
Figure 2.1. Positive psychological effects of using social networking on smartphones
True enough, our hypothesis proved correct. Figure 2.1 shows that most of our respondents felt more happy and relaxed after using social networking on smartphones. Using results from Figure 1.8, we can probably students are more happy as they get to keep in touch with their friends more often and more easily.
There is still a big number of respondents (30%) who think that there are no positive psychological effects. Perhaps these respondents seldom use social networking on their smartphones and have fewer encounters of positive psychological effects.
All in all, social networking on smartphones brought about many more positive psychological effects on RI Year 1 students, as compared to the negative psychological effects.