Vol.3, No.7, 406-415 (2011)
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. Openly accessible at http:// www.scirp.org/journal/HEALTH/
Awareness of mobile phone hazards among university
students in a malaysian medical school
Latha Rajendra Kumar*, Kiu Daw n Chii, Lye Chuan Way, Yogeet a Jetly, Veena Rajendaran
Faculty of Medicine, Asian Institute of Medical Science and Technology, Bukit Air Nasi, Kedah, Malaysia;
*Corresponding Author: latha.rajendrakumar@gmail.com
Received 6 January 2011; revised 28 January 2011; accepted 30 February 2011.
This paper seeks to examine the awareness of
potential health hazards b y using mobile phone
among AIMST (Asian Institute of Medical sci-
ence and technology) University students. This
is a cross-sectional survey conducted by dis-
tributing ‘perception questionnaire’. Perception
of health hazards and outcomes were compared
by gender, age, course of study, preferred ear,
number of calls and SMS daily, the brand of
mobile phone and use of mobile phone acces-
sory (Bluetooth and hands free). The overall
perception of mobile phone hazard in AIMST
university student was 62%.Most subjects agreed
that mobile phone usage can cause headache,
loss of mental attention and sleeping distur-
bances and most disagree that mobile phone
usage can cause constipation and diarrhea. Out
of the 124 subjects who were aware of the side
effects, 5% of the males and 10% of the females
felt that there was no need to minimize the un-
wanted effects. The paper is useful to the gen-
eral population particularly to the students as
the perceived health risk did not significantly
deter students from using mobile phone. The
reasons given by students for the continued
usage of mobile phone in spite of their aware-
ness of the associated hazards have been dis-
cussed. This study offers new insight into level
of awareness and perception of mobile phone
hazard among University students.
Keywords: Mobile Phone; Hazards; Perception
Questionnaire; University Students
A mobile phone is a long-range, electronic device used
for mobile voice or data communication over a network
of specialized base stations known as cell sites. In addi-
tion to the standard voice function of a mobile phone,
current mobile phones may support many additional ser-
vices, and accessories, such as SMS for text messag- ing,
email, packet switching for access to the Internet, ga-
ming, Bluetooth, infrared, ca mera with video recorder
and MMS for sending and receiving photos and video,
MP3 player, radio and GPS. Most current mobile phones
connect to a cellular network of base stations (cell sites),
which is in turn interconnected to the public switched
telephone network (PSTN) (the exception is satellite
The dependence on the mobile phone is increasingly
high.At the same time, this new information and com-
munication technology may cause harm. Although there
are only a few studies of mobile phone use, it has been
suggested that excessive mobile phone use may be
associated with health-compromising behaviors, such as
smoking or alcohol drinking [1]. Some previous studies
of Internet use suggest that excessive Internet use may
be associated with subjective distress, loneliness and
social isolation [2]. There is concern that microwaves
might induce or promote cancer, and the symptoms as-
sociated with their use include sleep disturbance, mem-
ory problems, headaches, nausea, and dizziness [3].
Changes in the permeability of the blood-brain barrier,
electroencephalographic activity, and blood pressure have
also been reported [4].
However, health concerns have induced a large body
of research (both epidemiological and experimental, in
non-human animals and in humans). Tantalizing findings
in humans include a speeding up of reaction time during
exposure, particularly during behavioral tasks calling for
attention, and electroencephalographic changes during
cognitive processes [5-9]. The only established health
hazard cited by the independent group comes from the
use of mobile phon es while driving. The risk is the same
when the phone is used “hands free” (via a loudspeaker
or a hands free device), implyin g that it is due to the dis-
traction caused by the conversation.
A study carried out by the Center for Reproductive
L. R. Kumar et al. / Health 3 (2011) 406-415
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. Openly accessible at http:// www.scirp.org/journal/HEALTH/
Medicine, Cleveland Clinic, USA [10] have published a
comprehensive, up-to-the-minute overview of the effects
of cell phone exposure on human health.In another such
research, by Siegrist M et al. [11] , studied the percep-
tions of risks associated with mobile phones, base sta-
tions, and other sources of electromagnetic fields (EMF).
Results showed people who use their mobile phones
frequently perceived lower risks and higher benefits than
people who use their mobile phones infrequently. Study
conducted by Hutter et al., [12,13 ] on adverse health ef-
fects of mobile phones and their base stations.
1) To find out the percentage of students in AIMST
University who have awareness of the hazards of mobile
2) To find out which of the hazards of mobile phone
use has greater pe rcep t i o n among AIMST Students.
3) To find out how many students actually practice
any safety measures to minimize the unwanted ef- fects
of mobile phone.
4) To look for ways and means the student population
is trying to minimize the unwanted effects.
We hypothesized that less than 50% of the AIMST
student population would have perception of the hazards
of mobile phone usage.
Methods: During our survey, 233 questionnaires were
randomly giv en around the campus. However not all the
student responded to the survey? Of the 233 question-
naire given, 212 were respondents however some ques-
tionnaire was incompletely filled and their data could not
be included in study.
Questionnaire was prepared and pilot tested on 10
students and peers reviewed by senior staff. The ethical
clearance committee clearance was thus obtained. (Ap-
pendix 1)
Informed Consent was obtained [14-16] from the
1) Question 3: Gender : M-male, F-female
2) Question 8: Do you use a cell phone : Y-yes, N-no
3) Questio n 12: 1-pouch, 2-hip-pock et, 3-around your
neck, 4-in the bag , 5-any other
4) Question 15 : 1-ri g ht , 2-l eft, 3-both, 4-not sure
5) Question 17 and 18: Y-yes, N- no
6) Question I:1-strongly disagree, 2-disagree, 3-slightly
agree, 4-agree, 5-strongly agree
Question III: Y-yes, N-no
A survey was randomly done on 200 students of
AIMST UNIVERSITY. The 200 students, who re-
sponded to our survey, comprised of 79 (39.5%) males
and 121 (60.5%) females. (Figure 2)
The distribution of the sample population in AIMST
University. BDS (dentistry), BIT (Information technol-
ogy), BM (business management), Bpharm (pharmacy),
BTC (biotech), FIS (foundation in science), MBBS
(medicine), PT (physiotherapy). (Figure 3)
One of the subject was using the mobile phone for 15
years. Most subjects have been using their mobile phone
for 5 years . ( Figure 4)
78% males and 84% females have at least one mobile
phone. (Table 1)
5 most popular brands were chosen. The most favo-
urite mobile phone brand used is Nokia (53.5%), fol-
lowed by Sony Ericsson (34%). Multitech, O2 and HTC
are very uncommon (Figure 5).
Among the males, 49.45% used Nokia, and 34.07%
used Sony Ericsson.
Among the females 48.82% used Nokia, and 29.13%
used Sony Ericsson (Figure 6).
Gender vs Brand.
4 most common locations for placements of mobile
phone were chosen in the research and placement of
mobile in the pocket was the most popular choice. How-
ever, none of our subjects put their phone around their
neck (Figure 7).
Out of the 200 samples, 199 responded to the question
“average calls per day including incoming and outgoing”.
Most of subject made 5 calls perday (20.1%) and 2 calls
perday (19.5%). The total average of incoming and
outgoing calls is 4.93 calls per day per person (Tab le 2,
Figure 8).
Most of the subjects have their mobile phone usage at
average 5 minutes per day (16.5%) and 30 minutes per
day (11.5%). The highest average call duration is 360
minutes per day and the lowest average call duration is 1
minutes per day. The total average call duration of the 200
subject is 32.245 minutes per day per person (Figur e 9).
From the graph, there is not much significant differ-
ence of the perception between males and females on the
same category (<10%).Most subjects agreed that mobile
phone usage can cause headache, loss of mental atten-
tion and sleeping disturbances and most disagree that
mobile phone usage can cause constipation and diarrhea
(Figur es 10-13).
Out of the 200 subj ects under the survey, 124 subjects
were aware of the side effects of mobile phone usage.
(78 females and 46 males were aware of the hazards)
(Figur es 14 and 15).
Out of the 124 subjects who were aware of the side
effects, 5% of the males and 10% of the females felt th at
there is no need to minimize the unwanted effects (Fig-
ur 16). e
L. R. Kumar et al. / Health 3 (2011) 406-415
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. http://www.scirp.org/journal/HEALTH/
Figure 1. Individual data was entered into this page, on Epi Info 2007.The following coding was done for data entry.
Figure 2. Figure 4. Distribution vs years of mobile phone usage.
Significant perception of mobile phone hazard was
observed in the age group of 22 years.
Our study disclosed 62 % of the student popu lation ar e
aware of the EMF health hazards produced by mobile
phone usage. Martha and Griffet [17] have reported that
adolescents appear to be concerned with perception of
Figure 3. Distribution of subje cts according to age.
Openly accessible at
L. R. Kumar et al. / Health 3 (2011) 406-415
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. Openly accessible at http:// www.scirp.org/journal/HEALTH/
Table 1. Distribution of number of students according to the number of mobile phone they use.
number of
mobile phone Number of
subjects % of
subjects Number of
Male Number of
Female % of Male % of Female % of all
Male % of all
1 163 81.91 62 101 38.04 61.96 78.481 84.167
2 24 12.06 10 14 41.67 58.33 12.658 11.667
3 6 3.015 3 3 50 50 3.797 2.5
4 4 2.01 3 1 75 25 3.797 0.833
5 1 0.503 0 1 0 100 0 0.833
6 1 0.503 1 0 100 0 1.266 0
Table 2. Av er age calls made per day by the subjects.
Avg. calls per day Number of subjects % of subjects Total calls
0 2 1.005 0
1 26 13.065 26
2 39 19.598 78
3 31 15.578 93
4 14 7.035 56
5 40 20.101 200
6 10 5.025 60
7 2 1.005 14
8 4 2.01 32
10 23 11.558 230
13 1 0.503 13
15 1 0.503 15
20 3 1.508 60
25 1 0.503 25
30 1 0.503 30
50 1 0.503 50
Figure 5. Distribution of brand of mobile phone according
to number of subjects.
Figure 6. The usage of mobile phone is more among females
as compared to males.
L. R. Kumar et al. / Health 3 (2011) 406-415
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. Openly accessible at http:// www.scirp.org/journal/HEALTH/
Figure 7.
Figure 8.
Figure 9. Duration per call (in minutes) according to number
of subjects.
Figure 10. Ear used in the subjects : Majority, 48% of the
subjects used their right ear and 18.5% used left ear.
Figure 11. Right ear is preferred more than left ear for
speaking on mobile phone. Both females and males prefer
using right ear than left ear.
Figure 12. Distribution of the overall mobile phone hazard
perception by gender.
hazard while driving was found to be 39.5%.A study had
conducted in Japan by Ichikawa and Nakahara [18] on
high school student on usage of mobile phone while cy-
cling has revealed higher bicycle crash. The risks of mo-
bile phone usage on visual attention, peripheral vision,
bronchial asthma, road accidents and living near base
stations have been reported [19-22]. A descriptive ana-
lytical study on mobile phone risks in University stu-
dents in Malaysia has been undertaken here (Table 3,
Figure 17).
A. Reasons for not responding to the questionnaire
I. During the survey, some of the student refused to
become the subject of our study. It is basically due to the
reasons below:
Laziness, felt irrelevant to their academic studies,
didn’t think they will make a difference in the study,
inade- quate ideas of details like number of SMS and
duration of calls
B. Semi-structured interview:
I.A. The brand used most by AIMST University stu-
dents is Nokia and it is followed by Sony Ericsson,
Samsung and Motorola. Semi-structured interviews were
conducted to get an idea for the rationale of choosing a
particular brand of mobile phone, not preferring hand
free and the reasons for not practicing reduced mobile
hone usage. p
L. R. Kumar et al. / Health 3 (2011) 406-415
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. http://www.scirp.org/journal/HEALTH/
Figure 13. Distribution of percentage of perception of side effects of mobile phone given by participants
sorted by male and female .
Figure 14. Association of factors of mobile phone hazard perce ption in male s (N = 79).
Openly accessible at
L. R. Kumar et al. / Health 3 (2011) 406-415
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. Openly accessible at http:// www.scirp.org/journal/HEALTH/
Figure 15. Association of factors of mobile phone hazard perception in females (N = 121).
Figure 16. Awareness of hazards depicted in percentage.
Table 3. Need to minimize mobile phone usage and percentage of males and females.
Male Male % Female Female %
No need minimize 3 5% 10 10%
Decrease talking duration 36 60% 57 51%
Increase hands free length 21 35% 44 39%
L. R. Kumar et al. / Health 3 (2011) 406-415
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. http://www.scirp.org/journal/HEALTH/
1 Headache destroys brain cells.
2 Hearing problems, radiation, Ca, tumor.
3 Mutation of genes.
4 Slight heat.
5 Infertility.
6 Pimples.
7 Earache.
8 Reactive waves.
9 Vasodilatation of blood vessels near the ear.
10 Mental retardation.
11 Nausea.
12 Impotence in man.
Figure 17. Radar graph show s the percentage of population
who did not feel there is a need to minimize and the pre-
ferred way to minimize the hazard (amongst those who felt
the need to minimize).
13 Prostate Carcinoma.
These are some of the opinion given on “By which
other method can you minimize the unwanted effect.”
1 Reduce by using infrared.
2 Put hand phon e away fr om body.
3 Use loud speaker mode.
Design, style, uniqueness,
fashion, popularity, trend
Build Quality
The brand advertisement
Want to try out
Special function for special
use – MP3, Java Games,
Peer pressure ,Worth the
Signal clarity
Slim, light and smooth
Camera with high megapixel
can replace the need for an
additional portable cam era
Have better warranty cover-
Trade in value
Durability, long lasting
4 Switch phone off when not in use.
5 Put phone away in locker.
6 Use earphones.
7 Use public ph o nes.
8 Don’t use frequently.
These are some of the opinion given on “why are you
not practicing the method even though you are aware
of th e hazard.”
1 No hands free.
2 Laziness.
I.B. Gender preference: 3 Not realized.
Female prefer – Colorful, slim, lightweight, lasting, styl-
ish mobile phone 4 Difficult to practice.
5 Troublesome.
Male prefer – Stylish, trendy, good performance mobile
phone 6 Never bothered about it.
7 Have never experience any side effect.
II. Hands free are normally not preferred because of
the need to plug in and out when needed and this may
spoil the delicate port, not feel good to plug earpiece in
your ear while walking around, not comfortable to use
noisy, not good reception, dangling wires and controls
interfere, not too stylish and people may feel that they
are talking to themselves rather than talking to the phone
during calls.
There is a significant number of people take laziness
as their excuse to not practice any of the method mini-
mizing the hazard, despite they had know the side effects.
However, some are not bothered as the importance of the
hand phone usage as part of the daily life outweighs the
measu res to counter the side effect .
Limitations: We did not have a control population as
all our students possessed mobile phone.
III. Most of the student population gave a feedback
that their perception has increased after completing the
“perception questionnaire”. In spite of the increased
awareness of risk, they chose not to practice reduction in
mobile phone usage due to the following reasons: How
is possible to reduce a call if receiving call from some-
one important, Don’t have the idea of “Keep It Short and
Simple” and now mobile company offer – “the more you
talk, the cheaper it charges” and hence why not grab the
The perception of mobile phone hazards among
AIMST University students was found to be 62%. Our
hypothesis was proved wrong and we discovered a
higher percentage of perception of mobile phone hazards
among AIMST University students. Mobile phone has
added new dimensions after its invention. Among the
favorable outcomes is the use of mobile phone for seek-
ing help, reporting crime, reckless driving or emergency.
The increased perceived safety associated with it may
outweigh the unfavorable risk associated with mobile
C. Qualita ti ve analysis:
These are some of the opinion given on “What are
the unwanted effects.”
Openly accessible at
L. R. Kumar et al. / Health 3 (2011) 406-415
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. Openly accessible at http:// www.scirp.org/journal/HEALTH/
Future direction: Advantages and disadvantages of
mobile phones, Risk of using mobile while driving, Spe-
cific absorption rate and electric field measurements of
mobile phones and Perception of usefulness of mobile
phone shield are b eing considered for further studies.
[1] Coggon, D. (2005) What are the health risks associated
with mobile phones and their base stations?
[2] Kraut, R., Patterson, M., Lundmark, V., Kiesler, S., Mu-
kopadhyay, T. and Scherlis, W. (1998) Internet-paradox:
A social technology that reduces social involvement and
psychological well being? American Psychologist, 53,
1017-1031. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.53.9.1017
[3] Maier, M. (2000) The health hazards of mobile phones.
British Medical Journal, 320, 1288-1289.
[4] Hermann, D.A. and Hossmann, K.A. (1997) Neurologi-
cal effects of microwave exposure related to mobile
communication. Journal of the Neurological Sciences,
152, 1-14. doi:10.1016/S0022-510X(97)00140-8
[5] Braune, S., Wrocklage, C., Raczek, J., Gailus, T. and
Lucking, C.H. (1988) Resting blood pressure increase
during exposure to a radio-frequency electromagnetic
field. The Lancet, 351, 1857-1858.
[6] Koivisto, M., Revonsuo, A., Krause, C., Haarala, C.,
Sillanmaki, L., Laine, M. and Hamalainen, H. (2000) Ef-
fects of 902 MHz electromagnetic field emitted by cellu-
lar telephones on response times in humans. Neurore-
port, 11, 413-415.
[7] Freude, G., Ullsperger, P., Eggert, S. and Ruppe, I. (1988)
Effects of microwaves emitted by cellular phones on hu-
man slow brain potentials. Bioelectromagnetics, 19,
[8] Krause, C.M., Sillanmaki, L., Koivisto, M., Haggqvist,
A., Saarela, C. and Revonsuo, A. (2000) Effects of elec-
tromagnetic field emitted by cellular phones on the EEG
during a memory task. Neuroreport, 11, 761-764.
[9] Hermann, D.A. and Hossmann, K.A. (2003) Effects of
electromagnetic radiation of mobile phones on the central
nervous system. Bioelectromagnetics, 24, 49-62.
[10] Siegrist, M., Earle, T.C., Gutscher, H. and Keller, C.,
(2006) Perception of mobile phone and base station risks.
Risk Analysis, 26, 1021-1029.
[11] Chapman, S. and Schofield, W.N. (1998) Emergency use
of cellular (mobile) telephones. The Lancet, 351, 650.
[12] Hutter, H.P., Moshammer, H., Wallner, P. and Kundi, M.
(2006) Subjective symptoms, sleeping problems, and
cognitive performance in subjects living near mobile
phone base stations, Occupational and Environmental
Medicine, 63, 307-313. doi:10.1136/oem.2005.020784
[13] Hutter, H.P., Moshamme r, H., Wallner, P. and Kundi, M.
(2004) Public perception of risk concerning celltowers
and mobile phones. Soz Praventivmed, 49, 62-66.
[14] Mallardi, V. (2005) The origin of informed consent. Acta
Otorhinolaryngol Ital, 25, 312-327.
[15] Appelbaum, P.S., Lidz, C.W. and Klitzman, R. (2009)
Voluntariness of consent to research: A conceptual model.
The Hastings Center Report, 39, 30-39.
[16] Baum, N. (2006) Informed consent--more than a form.
Journal of Medical Practice Management, 22, 145-148.
[17] Martha, C. and Griffet, J. (2007) Brief report: How do
adolescents perceive the risks related to cell-phone use?
Journal of Adolescence, 3, 513-521.
[18] Ichikawa, M. and Nakahara, S. (2008) Japanese high
school students’ usage of mobile phones while cycling.
Traffic Injury Prevention, 9, 42-47.
[19] Krewski, D., Lemy re, L., Mic helle, C., et al. (2009) Pub-
lic perception of population health risks in “Canada:
Health hazards and health outcomes”. International
Journal of Risk Assessment and Management, 11, 315-
334. doi:10.1504/IJRAM.2009.023158
[20] Maples, W.C., DeRosier, W., Hoenes, R., Bendure, R.
and Moore, S. (2008) The effects of cell phone use on pe-
ripheral vision. Optometry, 79, 36-42.
[21] Vanlaar, W. and Yannis, G. (2006) Perception of road
accident causes. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 38, 155.
[22] Bush, A., Karagiannis, G.E., Stamatopoulos, V.G. and
Kotis, T. (2006) Public perception of realtime informa-
tion services for environmental monitoring and manage-
ment of asthma. Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare,
12, 11-13. doi:10.1258/135763306777978470
L. R. Kumar et al. / Health 3 (2011) 406-415
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. Openly accessible at http:// www.scirp.org/journal/HEALTH/
1 Name :
2 Student ID :
3 Gender : male / female
4 Age :
5 Date of birt h :
6 Course :
7 Year joining AIMST (MM/YY) :
8 Do you use a cell phone : yes / no
9 How long have you been using a cell phone
(MM/YY) :__/__
10 How many cell phones you use currently :
11 Cell phone(s) brand that you’re using :
12 Where do you carry your cell phone:
pouch / pocket / around your neck / in the bag / any other
13 Average no. Of calls received/dialed daily :
14 The average duration you talk (both incoming and
outgoi ng) on the phone daily (in minutes):
14 Which ear that you normally use when you’re on
the phone:
right / left / both / not sure
16 Average no. of SMS received/sent daily:
17 Do you using any cell phone accessory(s):
Bluetooth: yes / no
Hands free: yes / no
18 Do you use cell phone while driving : yes / no
19 Each call in minutes received/called for 3 consecu-
tive days :
(1) (6)
(2) (7)
(3) (8)
(4) (9)
(5) (10)
1) Do you think the following health hazard are associ-
ated to cell phone usage
hazards Strongly
disagree Disagree Slightly
agree Agree Strongly
loss of mental
memory loss
heart rate)
2) Are you aware of the several unwanted effects of
using the cell phone : yes/no
3) How do you think you can minimize the unwanted
effects :
a) Decrease the talking duration : yes/no
b) Increase the length of hands free: yes/no
c) Any other method(s): _______________________
4) Do you actually practice any of these measures: yes
/ no
5) If no, why?