The relationship between nomophobia and psychological distress in Tunisian students: The moderating effect of physical activity




Physical Activity, Nomophobia, Tunisian University Students, DASS-12, Path Modeling


Background: Due to their stage of life and the daily stressors they encounter, students are particularly susceptible to both behavioral and psychological issues. Our study was designed with two objectives in mind: (1) to explore the potential mitigating effect of physical activity on the relationship between nomophobia and distress in students; and (2) to evaluate the reliability and validity of the Arabic version of the Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scales (DASS-12).

Methods: A cross-sectional analysis was undertaken with a sample of Tunisian students who regularly use smartphones (N=533, 64.6% female, mean age 25.03±6.55 years).

Results: The exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses pointed to the DASS-12 as a secondary 3-factor scale. The internal consistency of the scale, as measured by Cronbach’s alphas, was 0.98 for stress, 0.90 for anxiety, and 0.84 for depression. The results of the measurement model supported the suitability and reliability of all the DASS-12 items in capturing the underlying constructs. Structural model analysis revealed positive correlations between physical activity and nomophobia with stress, anxiety, and depression. Moreover, physical activity was found to moderate the relationship between nomophobia and two elements of distress: stress and anxiety.

Conclusion: The findings of this study open up novel intervention strategies for students grappling with nomophobia. In particular, the results suggest that promoting physical activity might serve as a coping strategy to counteract the impacts of nomophobia on stress and anxiety symptoms in students.

Graphical Abstract