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Cell phone use and behavioural problems in young children
  1. Hozefa A Divan1,
  2. Leeka Kheifets2,
  3. Carsten Obel3,
  4. Jørn Olsen2,3
  1. 1Division of Biostatistics, Department of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA
  3. 3Institute of Public Health, University of Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to Dr Leeka Kheifets, UCLA Pub Hlth-Epid, Box 951772, 73-320 CHS, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1772, USA; kheifets{at}


Background Potential health effects of cell phone use in children have not been adequately examined. As children are using cell phones at earlier ages, research among this group has been identified as the highest priority by both national and international organisations. The authors previously reported results from the Danish National Birth Cohort (DNBC), which looked at prenatal and postnatal exposure to cell phone use and behavioural problems at age 7 years. Exposure to cell phones prenatally, and to a lesser degree postnatally, was associated with more behavioural difficulties. The original analysis included nearly 13 000 children who reached age 7 years by November 2006.

Methods To see if a larger, separate group of DNBC children would produce similar results after considering additional confounders, children of mothers who might better represent current users of cell phones were analysed. This ‘new’ dataset consisted of 28 745 children with completed Age-7 Questionnaires to December 2008.

Results The highest OR for behavioural problems were for children who had both prenatal and postnatal exposure to cell phones compared with children not exposed during either time period. The adjusted effect estimate was 1.5 (95% CI 1.4 to 1.7).

Conclusions The findings of the previous publication were replicated in this separate group of participants demonstrating that cell phone use was associated with behavioural problems at age 7 years in children, and this association was not limited to early users of the technology. Although weaker in the new dataset, even with further control for an extended set of potential confounders, the associations remained.

  • Behaviour
  • cellular phone
  • child
  • mothers
  • pregnancy

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  • Funding The Age-7 Questionnaire was financially supported by the Lundbeck Foundation (195/04) and the Danish Medical Research Council (SSVF 0646). Support for this work was provided by the UCLA School of Public Health, research innovation seed grant (4565963LK19914) and by an NIH/NIEHS grant (R21ES016831).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Danish Data Protection Agency (Datatilsynet) and the UCLA Office for the Protection of Research Subjects.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.