Three Health Problems Caused by Smartphones

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Smartphones and your healthIn recent years, it seems like smartphones have become an extension of the human body.

The majority of people I see walking down the street, riding the subway, sitting in restaurants or relaxing in the park are holding one.

It’s almost as if smartphones were created to be with humans at all times; holding a smartphone has become as natural as breathing!

On the surface, it might not seem like a bad thing: Smartphones allow people to work out-of-office, stay in touch with friends and family and keep themselves entertained—all at the touch of a (user-friendly!) button.

A smartphone may seem like the perfect companion, but there are some negative effects they can have on your health. Be aware—especially if you’re one of the roughly 208 million Americans who own one.

Approximately two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone. Some even cite being “smartphone dependent;” meaning it is their primary vehicle for accessing the Internet. Even those of us who have broadband at home, a computer or a tablet still tend to heavily rely on smartphones throughout the day.

Three Health Problems Caused by Smartphones

1.Pulls at Your Posture: When you’re standing up straight, you put very little pressure on your neck and back—which are charged with the task of keeping your head up. The average human head weighs between 10 and 12 pounds, but for every bit you move it forward, like when you look down at your smartphone, the pressure on your neck and back increases dramatically. Moving your head only 15 degrees forward can create as much as 27 pounds of pressure. The further you move it forward, and down, the more pressure it adds. So if you’re holding your smartphone relatively close to your body, you could be applying as much as 60 pounds of pressure on your neck every time you look down to send a text or an e-mail.

This added stress on the back and neck causes “wear and tear” on the discs that hold you upright. As a result, posture problems arise and it can lead to back problems. People with poor posture also tend to experience more headaches and neurological problems, while having a higher risk for heart disease. All of these are very important things to think about when using your smartphone, because there’s a good chance you’ll never hold it up at eye level.

To help improve your posture, think about your viewing angle with your smartphone and try to bend your neck as little as possible. Practice standing up straight with your scapula retracted (imagine that you are squeezing a stick, using your shoulder blades); this will allow you to draw a straight line from your ears to your ankles.

2.Sabotages Sleep: It’s sad to say, but most people probably sleep closer to their smartphones than they do their partners every night! Having a smartphone in the bedroom can cause some pretty big health problems when it comes to sabotaging your sleep.

When you look at the bright lights of your smartphone screen before bed, the lights signal to your brain that it’s not time for sleep. In turn, your body might stop, or limit its production of melatonin (the sleep hormone), and you’ll find yourself lying awake. Sleepless nights can lead to groggy mornings, general tiredness and fatigue. This can create added stress, increase the risk for cardiovascular disease and make you more prone to random injury.

Aside from the impacts of looking at your smartphone lights before bed, they can also damage your eyes when you look at them in the dark. The blue lights on many of these devices may lead to conditions like macular degeneration (an eye disease that causes vision loss) and cataracts.

To solve these problems, designate your bedroom a “smartphone-free” zone and don’t look at your phone an hour before bedtime. If you typically use your phone as an alarm clock, either replace it with a traditional alarm clock or set it to “sleep mode” overnight.

3.Socialization (or Lack Thereof): One of the main reasons people love smartphones is that they’re marketed to promote connections. Through your phone, you can access virtually every social media platform available. You can view photographs, send e-mails, text, talk and video chat with anybody. The vastness of the Internet is impressive—but does social media access really make people more social?

I don’t think so. I’ve sat in countless restaurants and seen tables with two or more people sitting down and typing away on their smartphones. Using a smartphone can become addictive—and many users begin to disregard life around them as they get further and further into the world offered by their phones.

“How does this affect my health?” You may ask. A smartphone is not a substitute for physical, social interaction. Communicating with a human being, making eye-contact, and physical touch provides much more physical and mental health benefits compared to sending a text message. So do yourself a favor— put away the smartphone every once in a while and enjoy the company of the people around you.

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Sources:
Dallas, K., “4 unexpected health risks of smartphone use,” Deseret News National web site, November 22, 2014; http://national.deseretnews.com/article/2841/4-unexpected-health-risks-of-smartphone-use.html.
Smith, A., “Smartphone Use in 2015,” Pew Research Center web site, April 1, 2015; http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/01/us-smartphone-use-in-2015/.
Firger, J., “OMG, you’re texting your way to back pain,” CBS News web site, November 14, 2014; http://www.cbsnews.com/news/omg-youre-texting-your-way-to-back-pain/.
“Are smartphones making us anti-social?” CBC News web site, October 14, 2014; http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/are-smartphones-making-us-anti-social-1.2053920.
Gmoser, J., “This is what happens to your brain and body when you check your smartphone before bed,” Business Insider web site, April 9, 2015; http://www.businessinsider.in/This-is-what-happens-to-your-brain-and-body-when-you-check-your-smartphone-before-bed/articleshow/46857385.cms.

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