(AP Photo/Andy Wong)
CAPE TOWN - Smartphone separation anxiety is set to become an increasingly widespread problem, researchers say. The term, which is also known as “nomophobia”, is used to describe the feeling of panic or stress some people experience when they’re unable to access or use their mobile phone. According to new research, it has little to do with being unable to make or receive phone calls.

Instead, scientists from the City University of Hong Kong and the Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul say it’s because smartphones are so advanced and personal to us that they’ve actually become an extension of ourselves.

As well as storing meaningful photos and messages, mobiles act as a gateway to an enormous range of apps, websites and services that let us quickly access content that’s important to us.

“As smartphones evoke more personal memories, users extend more of their identity on to their smartphones,” the research, which is published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, says. “When users perceive smartphones as their extended selves, they are more likely to become attached to the devices, which, in turn, leads to nomophobia by heightening the phone proximity-seeking tendency.”

Though they used a relatively small sample group of 300 students in South Korea for their study and conceded that it might not be fully representative of all smartphone users, they believe smartphone separation anxiety will become a bigger and bigger issue for people in the future, as technology becomes even more personalised and we grow ever more reliant upon it.