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70% of Millennials Report Anxiety From Not Having Their Cell Phone

In 2017, you can walk down any street almost anywhere in the world and see more people looking down at their cell phones than those looking up.

​Our cell phones are often the majority owners of both our eyeballs and our attention. And, its not that hard to see why.

Cell phones are the ​jack-of-all-trades tool. Within minutes, we can communicate with the masses, get directions for where we are headed, order dinner for the night, and find the net worth of Mark Wahlberg to squash that debate once and for all. 

All of this resourcefulness on the part of our mobile device has not only made us attached to our phone, it has made us crave our phone.

Not too long ago, 60 Minutes featured a segment in which a former Google product manager, Tristan Harris, discussed how programmers in Silicon Valley have engineered our phones like a slot machine, something that we habitually need to check to see if we won a reward (ex. a red Facebook notification).

On the same show, psychologist Larry Rosen discussed his findings that revealed that the brain releases the hormone cortisol, a chemical that initiates a flight-or-fight response to danger, when someone spends too much time away from his or her phone. The result of the cortisol is that we become anxious and are compelled to peek at our phones.

“Eventually your goal is to get rid of that anxiety, so you check in,” Rosen said.

LendEDU commissioned a months-long poll to put some statistical data behind these discomforting findings, and the results only further reinforce the theory. 

Nearly 70% of Millennials Get Anxiety After Being Away From Their Phones

Our poll, which ran from early June to late August, asked over 7,000 millennials the following question: “Do you get anxiety when you do not have your phone with you?”

As you can see from the graph above, 69 percent of millennials reported that they suffered from anxiety when they were separated from their mobile devices. Meanwhile, 31 percent of the respondents stated that they have never felt such a side-effect.

We wanted to get millennials perspective on this issue because we are not only the most tech-savvy demographic, but also the first generation to be fully immersed in the smart-phone culture from an early age. 

As it turns out, virtually seven out of every ten millennials report anxiety due to being away from their phones for too long. Of course, these respondents are self-diagnosing their symptoms as “anxiety,” and the question would require a much more in-depth study involving medical professionals that could officially diagnose a participant’s symptoms as “anxiety.”

However, it is important to remember that these millennial respondents are feeling something that makes them uncomfortable when they are not checking their phones. As a millennial, I can personally attest to this uneasy feeling that is associated with being detached from my smartphone. The longest I can go without checking my iPhone is usually one Game of Thrones episode. Ever try refraining from checking your cell phone after you hear it vibrate or ring for a text message? It is not only tortuous, but nearly impossible.

We broke down the results of this poll according to gender and found that females are more likely to suffer from phone-separation anxiety than males. When it came to male millennial respondents, 63 percent reported having anxiety, while 37 percent claimed that they do not get anxious after not checking their phones. In comparison, 76 percent of female respondents stated that they did get anxiety after being apart from their mobile devices, while 24 percent did not. 

While the temptation to open up our smart phones and have every answer on Earth just a few moments away can be quite irresistible, if we spend just an hour each day away from our mobile device then maybe we can catch appreciate the beautiful world that we are constantly surrounded by. A little less use would make everyone a little less dependent on their cell phone, which could hopefully ease some of the anxiousness associated with not staying up-to-date with your phone and its happenings.

Smart phones are undeniably useful and one of the most powerful tools ever created in history, but just like everything else in life, a little moderation would do everyone some good. 


The data used in this report came from an online poll that was commissioned by LendEDU and conducted online by polling company Whatsgoodly. In total, 7,076 millennials were asked to answer the following question truthfully: “Do you get anxiety when you do not have your phone with you?” This poll was conducted from June 5th, 2017 to August 26th, 2017. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are currently 75.4 million millennials in the United States. We estimate that our sample is representative of the population of U.S. millennials within a margin of +-1.16%. 

See more of LendEDU’s Research