In a world where mobile phones have become an essential form of communication, new figures have shown people are more addicted to their phones than ever before.

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Today’s teenagers won’t remember a time before they existed, but whether it’s for making phone calls, sending messages or searching the internet – people of all age groups are becoming more dependent.

Many now cannot imagine living life without one, and wonder how they shopped, read the news, or contacted their friends before.

It is the 18 to 24 age group that are most addicted, checking their phones on average every nine minutes and 50 seconds.

And the 55 to 64-year-olds are on their phones the least, tending to use it just a few times a day.

But the biggest surprise was a jump in the over 65s who, perhaps with retirement, start to use their phones more often – checking every 47 minutes.

Dr Simon Hampton, psychology lecturer at the University of East Anglia, said the reason for this is that mobiles had become a tool, much like a Swiss Army Knife.

He said: “It has become an extension of our identity – there are many different reasons people might check their phones.”

He said a mobile phone had become a utility for shopping, checking bank balances and communicating.

Not only this, mobiles had become personal.

He said: “Most people would think nothing of lending someone their car for the day, but asking to borrow someone’s phone is a different matter – the answer would probably be no.”

The research, commissioned by KANA Software, showed that men are more impatient than women, checking their phone on average every 22 minutes, 30 seconds, while women will check every 26 minutes, 15 seconds.

While these are general figures, there’s also a small number of phone addicts – the five per cent of 18 to 24- year-olds who check their phone every minute. The survey of more than 2,000 people in the UK found that email on smartphones was most frequently checked, followed by Twitter and then text messages. The average UK consumer has used 7.4 different methods for electronic communication in the past six months.

“Little more than a decade ago, 10 working days was the conventional commitment of businesses and organisations when responding to complaints – and also the span of consumer tolerance,” said David Moody, head of worldwide product strategy at KANA. “This no longer applies. Our impression today is that as soon as we press send, ‘Mr or Ms Cosgrove in Complaints’ should be reading our complaint and working out how to respond. If we don’t hear back quickly, our impatience rises.”

The average UK adult spends a ‘fraughtnight’ – or nearly two weeks – every year waiting for companies to deal with a complaint or query and people are increasingly taking to social media to complain about slow service.

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