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IN RECENT YEARS, cellular phone (CP) email has become a major communication method among young people in Japan. Furthermore, ‘cyberbullying’ via email, chat and message board postings on the Internet and CP is becoming an important issue.1 In the present study we conducted a large-scale survey of junior high school students in Japan to investigate the effects of CP email on emotional status.

The subjects consisted of a total of 10 709 junior high school students in grades 7–9 from Tsu City (5335 students) and Nagasaki City (5374 students). An anonymous 50-item self-completed questionnaire survey was conducted in July 2006 (Tsu)2 and January 2008 (Nagasaki). Students absent on the day of the survey and those whose questionnaires were left blank were excluded; 4894 and 4864 valid responses were obtained for Tsu and Nagasaki, respectively (total, 9758; boys, 4952; girls, 4806).

Overall, 49.9% of students possessed a CP. The rate of possession increased with year in school; 39.6% of 7th graders, 50.2% of 8th graders and 59.3% of 9th graders possessed CP.

In response to the question ‘Have you experienced stress during email exchange using your CP in the past week?’, 8.4% of students reported ‘once’, 2.6% reported ‘twice’, 5.5% reported ‘three times or more’ (≥3 times), and the remainder reported ‘never’. Logistic regression analysis was conducted controlling for grade and sex; odds ratios (OR) of the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) poor mental health status (GHQ-12 score ≥ 4) were 1.83 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.57–2.12; once), 2.36 (95%CI: 1.81–3.07; twice), and 3.97 (95%CI: 3.25–4.85; ≥3 times) as compared to ‘never’. Thus, the number of occurrences of email-related stress was associated with poor mental health status.

A significant association was also observed between subjects who answered ‘yes’ to the item ‘Have you been the victim of bullying within the past year?’ and those who reported ‘≥3 times’ to the email question (OR, 2.02; 95%CI: 1.65–2.49). The OR of the GHQ-12 poor mental health status for subjects who met the two aforementioned criteria was markedly high (19.30; 95%CI: 10.60–35.15) compared to those who answered ‘no’ to the bullying question and ‘never’ to the email question.

Thus, a marked decline in mental health was observed in subjects who were experiencing both stress due to CP email use and bullying. These findings suggest that problems with CP email may have a considerable effect on the emotional status of young teens. CP email stress should be a new focus of mental health intervention in young people in Japan.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

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This study was supported by grants-in-aid (H19-Kokoro-Ippan-012) from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, Japan.

REFERENCES

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  2. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
  3. REFERENCES