Until now, most research in the prevalence of compulsive buying (CB) has been developed from samples in western developed countries, this study aimed to estimate the prevalence and co-morbidities of CB, problematic Internet use (PIU) and problematic mobile phone use (PMPU) in college students in Yantai, China. Moreover, based on the lack of research focusing on differences between CB and addiction, we will explore whether CB and PIU/PMPU individuals are characterized by the same self-traits (i. e., self-control, self-esteem and self-efficacy) related profile.
A total of 601 college students were involved in this cross-sectional study. Compulsive buying, problematic Internet and mobile phone use and self-traits were assessed by self-reported questionnaires. The demographic information and use characteristics were included in the questionnaires.
The incidence of CB, PIU and PMPU were 5.99, 27.8 and 8.99% respectively. In addition, compared with rural students, students from cities are more likely to get involved in CB. Students using mobile phone to surf the Internet displayed higher risk of PIU than counterparts using computer. Students using Internet or mobile phone longer are more prone to problematic use. Furthermore, we found the strong correlations and high co-morbidities of CB, PIU and PMPU and self-control was the most significant predictor for all three disorders. However, self-esteem and self-efficacy were significant predictors only for CB.
Our findings indicated that with the prevalence of CB and PMPU roughly equivalent to that demonstrated in previous studies, PIU in Chinese college students is serious and deserves more attention. Furthermore, besides the impulsive aspect common with addiction, CB is also driven by painful self-awareness derived from low self-regard which implies the obsessive-compulsive aspect.