Recall of mobile phone usage and laterality in young people: The multinational Mobi-Expo study

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Abstract

Objective

To study recall of mobile phone usage, including laterality and hands-free use, in young people.

Methods

Actual mobile phone use was recorded among volunteers aged between 10 and 24 years from 12 countries by the software application XMobiSense and was compared with self-reported mobile phone use at 6 and 18 months after using the application. The application recorded number and duration of voice calls, number of text messages, amount of data transfer, laterality (% of call time the phone was near the right or left side of the head, or neither), and hands-free usage. After data cleaning, 466 participants were available for the main analyses (recorded vs. self-reported phone use after 6 months).

Results

Participants were on average 18.6 years old (IQR 15.2–21.8 years). The Spearman correlation coefficients between recorded and self-reported (after 6 months) number and duration of voice calls were 0.68 and 0.65, respectively. Number of calls was on average underestimated by the participants (adjusted geometric mean ratio (GMR) self-report/recorded = 0.52, 95% CI = 0.47–0.58), while duration of calls was overestimated (GMR=1.32, 95%, CI = 1.15–1.52). The ratios significantly differed by country, age, maternal educational level, and level of reported phone use, but not by time of the interview (6 vs. 18 months). Individuals who reported low mobile phone use underestimated their use, while individuals who reported the highest level of phone use were more likely to overestimate their use. Individuals who reported using the phone mainly on the right side of the head used it more on the right (71.1%) than the left (28.9%) side. Self-reported left side users, however, used the phone only slightly more on the left (53.3%) than the right (46.7%) side. Recorded percentage hands-free use (headset, speaker mode, Bluetooth) increased with increasing self-reported frequency of hands-free device usage. Frequent (≥50% of call time) reported headset or speaker mode use corresponded with 17.1% and 17.2% of total call time, respectively, that was recorded as hands-free use.

Discussion

These results indicate that young people can recall phone use moderately well, with recall depending on the amount of phone use and participants’ characteristics. The obtained information can be used to calibrate self-reported mobile use to improve estimation of radiofrequency exposure from mobile phones.

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