Owning a cell phone is a fact of life for most of us, but the convenience of having a world of information at our fingertips comes at a price. We work after we’re done working. We’re reachable around the clock. Sometimes it seems like we’re always on call. And your iPhone isn’t just inundating you with post-work emails from work. It’s also having negative effects on your health.
As much as a smartphone is a great way to keep your life organized and on track, smartphones have also been linked to mood and sleep problems by researchers at the University of Gothenburg. And the fun doesn’t stop there. Your phone could also be wreaking havoc on your physical health in myriad ways too. The good news? The 50 Genius Tricks to Improve Your Life can still help counteract the negative effects of your tech addiction.
The weight of your head looking down at your phone screen all day can put a lot of pressure on your neck and spine and lead to a condition called tech neck. For more info on this unfortunate malady, check out What Is Tech Neck and Do You Have It?
By now, you probably know that the blue light blasting out of your phone screen can interfere with your sleep. However, you might not realize that scientists at the University of Granada in Spain have linked sleep disruptions like the ones caused by your phone to obesity and diabetes. These disruptions prevent your body from producing ghrelin and leptin, two hunger hormones that help you regulate your appetite during your waking hours. And it isn’t just looking at your phone before you fall asleep that causes these disruptions—any light your phone emits while you sleep, whether it’s from a notification or the clock on your screen, can mess with the hormones your body needs to produce while you’re sleeping. So, before you hit the hay, turn off your phone and make sure you know the 20 Nighttime Habits Guaranteed to Help You Sleep Better.
Shortened Attention Span
Digital multitasking may seem effective, but it may be making us less focused in the long run. A study from Microsoft showed that the average attention span of participants was only eight seconds. A goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds. This shortened attention span is a new development, and it’s more pronounced in people who are “heavy multi-screeners.” In the year 2000, before the advent of smartphones, humans could pay attention to something for 12 seconds. If you feel like your mind isn’t as sharp as it once was, Steal These 16 Mental-Health Secrets of Famous Geniuses.
Changing the Structure of Your Brain
In addition to shortening your attention span, media multitasking can change the physical structure of your brain, research published in PLoS One suggests. People who engage in a higher amount of media multitasking actually had smaller grey matter density in the anterior cingulate cortex portion of their brain, which is linked to decreased cognitive control and socio-emotional regulation.
Changing the Way You Think
Not only can too much screen time change the structure of your brain, it can also change the way you think. Researchers from Dartmouth compared the takeaways people who read physical books got from a passage against those of people who read on screens, and they found that people who do their reading on a screen weren’t as good at recognizing abstract concepts in the passages they read.
Causing Car Crashes
Cell phones are involved in 27% of car crashes in the United States, according to the National Safety Council. And the ways a car crash can mess with your health, assuming you survive, are too almost too numerous to list.
Making You Passive
The size of your phone may affect how assertive you are, according to research from the Harvard Business School. People who used smaller devices in the study continued to wait in their seat for a researcher to come back to them, rather than go to the front desk and get them as instructed. People using larger electronic devices took a more assertive approach. And unfortunately, the bad posture caused by hunching over small electronic devices is just one of 15 Daily Habits That Are Killing Your Confidence.
First your phone gave you tech neck, and now it’s giving you texting thumb, a repetitive stress injury caused by too much texting. Smartphones aren’t particularly ergonomic, and overusing one could cause you some pain in your thumb that might make you less dextrous, at least for the time being. Fortunately, your thumb just needs rest to recover, so if you find yours aching, put your phone away and consider one of The 50 Best Ways to Relax With Your Partner instead.
Robbing You of Empathy
Kids these days don’t have as much empathy as they used to. A study conducted at the University of Michigan found that college students from this decade are 40 percent less empathetic than college students were 30 years ago. The cause of this steep drop in empathy is presumed to be a combination of exposure to more media and social media, both of which we all conveniently carry around in our pockets all the time.
Getting Hit by a Car
Driving with your phone in your hand isn’t the only way you’re putting yourself at risk on the roads. A study published in the Journal of Community Health that observed 21,760 pedestrians at five busy intersections in Manhattan found that half of the people who were crossing in spite of a Don’t Walk signal were wearing headphones, talking on the phone, or looking at an electronic device. So, phones do more than make people dangerous drivers: they make people dangerous pedestrians, too.
Despite being the thing that keeps you connected to your entire circle of friends, your phone could be causing you social anxiety. For many, this anxiety may be the result of feeling the need to respond immediately to every text, email, or notification you get. However, strangely enough, using your phone for professional reasons didn’t cause increased stress. Nice to know your phone is only interfering with the stuff that actually matters!
In addition to messing with your sleep cycle, looking at your phone in bed can also cause temporary blindness. If you lie on your side in the dark and look at your phone with one eye, you can go temporarily blind. It’s probably a good idea to stop bringing your phone to bed.
Cell Phone Elbow
If you use your phone to communicate verbally instead of via text, you might be spared texting thumb, but you could instead suffer “cell phone elbow,” AKA cubital tunnel syndrome. Treatment includes switching the phone to your other arm, using a headset, or better yet, putting the phone down from time to time.
You take your phone with you everywhere—the kitchen, the bedroom, bathroom—so it should come as no surprise that thing is covered in germs. And then you put it on your face. Unsurprisingly, this might be a bad idea—superbug MRSA has been found on cell phones, after all. And even if there’s not MRSA on your phone, there are definitely some other not-s0-pleasant germs crawling around on that thing.
You can pretty easily avoid temporary blindness in one eye from your phone, but eye strain is another matter entirely. Between the time you spend looking at a computer and the time you spend staring at your phone, it’s fairly likely you’re straining your eyes on a pretty regular basis.
Constantly looking down at your phone can give you tech neck, but it can also lead to a painful condition called occipital neuralgia, which is caused when the occipital nerves at the base of your neck get compressed from looking down all the time, causing terrible headaches. The good news? The headaches can be cured. The bad news? It requires a lot of injections, so be mindful of your posture.
Plugging headphones into your ears and blasting some tunes from your phone is a great way to block out the sounds of traffic on your commute home. Unfortunately, it’s also a great way to permanently damage your hearing. Whenever possible, resist that urge to turn things to 11.
You’d like to imagine that doctors texting while operating doesn’t happen, but it is sadly very much a thing. Multiple doctors have been caught in the operating room texting people while on the job. And even if they aren’t texting, those germy phones and supposedly-sterile environments still don’t mix.
Increased Risk of Suicide
In teens, 48 percent of those who looked at their phone for more than five hours each day had considered suicide or even made plans to kill themselves. It’s hard to think of a better way to highlight the need to limit the amount of time you spend on your phone.
It’s entirely possible to become addicted to your cell phone. Smartphone withdrawal can cause physical symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, and depression. It actually increases the production of the stress hormone cortisol as well, which is cardio-toxic. Perhaps the worst thing about all the ways your phone harms your health is that it’s so hard to quit. Luckily, there’s hope. If you think you’ve got a problem, discover 11 Ways to Conquer Your Smartphone Addiction.
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