'Nomophobia' up as more folks fear being mobileless

A survey out of the U.K. suggests that as many as two in three adults may be nervous when without cell phone contact.

D Sharon Pruitt, Laihiu/Wikimedia Commons

We humans seem to have the capacity to fear just about anything these days. From chromophobia (fear of colors) to genuphobia (fear of knees or kneeling), optophobia (fear of opening one's eyes) to selenophobia (fear of the moon), we've been able to identify just about any phobia imaginable.

So it should come as no surprise that nomophobia, the fear of being out of mobile phone contact, exists at all, let alone may afflict as many as two in three adults, according to a new survey out of the U.K.

Commissioned by SecurEnvoy, creator of tokenless two-factor authentication, the survey found that 66 percent of the 1,000 people interviewed worry about being without cell phone contact. This is up from just over 50 percent four years ago, when the phobia was first identified.

When sorted by age, the highest incidence of nomophobia is in 18- to 24-year-olds (77 percent), followed by 25- to 34-year-olds (68 percent). The third highest rate is among those 55 and older.

Slightly more women say they worry about being apart from their phones than men (70 percent to 61 percent), though a SecurEnvoy rep points out that this could be because fewer women than men have two phones (36 percent versus 47 percent).

All these figures may sound impressive, but bear in mind that people were asked if they worried about being apart from their phones--a state of being that may be more likely to indicate low-level anxiety than an actual phobia. Wanting my phone to be operational on a long road trip with lots of miles between gas stations is one thing; living in sheer terror of being without my phone for any moment of any day is quite another.

Still, the apparent rise in the number of people who worry about being without their phone is right in step with the rise in dependence on the devices. The question of whether nomophobia is becoming as prevalent as other common fears--think arachnophobia (fear of spiders), acrophobia (fear of heights), trypanophobia (fear of injections), and glossophobia (fear of public speaking)--will undoubtedly require more rigid investigation.

So, what about you? Do you suffer from nomophobia? Vote in our poll.