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Depression and social anxiety in relation to problematic smartphone use: The prominent role of rumination

Jon D. Elhai (Department of Psychology, University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio, USA) (Department of Psychiatry, University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio, USA) (Laboratory for Traumatic Stress Studies, CAS Key Laboratory of Mental Health, Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China)
Mojisola Tiamiyu (Department of Psychology, University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio, USA)
Justin Weeks (Department of Psychology, Nebraska Medicine, Omaha, Nebraska, USA)

Internet Research

ISSN: 1066-2243

Article publication date: 4 April 2018




Previous research has found support for depression and anxiety severity in association with both increased and problematic smartphone use. However, little research has explored transdiagnostic psychopathology constructs as mediators that may account for these relationships. The purpose of this paper is to test rumination as a possible transdiagnostic (cross-sectional) mediator in these relationships.


The authors recruited 296 college students to complete relevant web survey measures, including the patient health questionnaire-9 (for depression severity), social interaction anxiety scale (for social anxiety severity), ruminative thought styles questionnaire, smartphone addiction scale-short version (to measure levels of problematic smartphone use), and a measure of smartphone use frequency.


The authors found support for a structural model whereby the severity of depression and social anxiety accounted for variance in rumination, which, in turn, correlated with problematic smartphone use levels. Rumination accounted for relations between both depression and social anxiety severity with levels of problematic use.


The authors discuss the role of rumination as a possible mechanism between anxiety- and depression-related psychopathology levels with problematic smartphone use severity. This study is unique in exploring rumination in the context of problematic smartphone use.



Elhai, J.D., Tiamiyu, M. and Weeks, J. (2018), "Depression and social anxiety in relation to problematic smartphone use: The prominent role of rumination", Internet Research, Vol. 28 No. 2, pp. 315-332.



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