23 Surprising Things You Didn't Know Can Hurt Your Body
Your everyday habits might not be as benign as you think.
Of course, it's common knowledge that things like smoking, skipping the gym, and forgetting to floss are bad for you. But there are other seemingly innocuous things you do every day that could actually be harming your body, too. Yes, many of your daily habits—things like working past midnight, sitting in traffic, and even just staying in an unhappy marriage—could be hurting your head, your heart, and your overall health. Read on to discover the surprising things that are bad for your body, so you can make some changes stat!
Growing up with divorced parents
It turns out, whether or not your parents got divorced when you were a child plays a pretty significant role in your wellbeing as an adult. One 2013 study from the University of Toronto found that men whose parents got divorced before they were 18 were 48 percent more likely to smoke 100 or more cigarettes during their lifetime than men whose parents stayed together. (And we needn't tell you why that's harmful for their bodies.) Similarly, women whose parents divorced when they were younger were 39 percent more likely to smoke the same amount compared to those whose parents were still married.
Having a lot of credit card debt
Not paying off your credit card bill every month is one of the many surprising things that can hurt your body. One 2000 study from Ohio State University looked into the relationship between credit card debt and wellbeing and found that both credit card debt itself and the stress that comes with it can negatively impact a person's physical health.
"Two people may have the same income, but if one is deeper in debt, that person will probably be under more stress and have more health-related problems," Paul J. Lavrakas, co-author of the study and director of Ohio State's Center for Survey Research, said in a press release.
Checking your emails first thing in the morning
You might not feel like scrolling through your unread messages before you get out of bed causes harm, but one 2016 study presented at the British Psychological Society's Division of Occupational Psychology annual conference says otherwise.
The researchers found that those who check their email first thing in the morning—as well as those who check it right before bed—tend to experience more stress than people who keep their email use to a minimum. And seeing as stress can cause high blood pressure and problems with digestion, fertility, memory, and blood flow, remind yourself that those emails in your inbox aren't going anywhere; do yourself a favor and wait until later in the morning to check them.
Overusing social media
There's no denying that social media is another constant source of stress in our lives. From frequent FOMO to battles with trolls, online platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are basically a one-stop-shop for anxiety and agitation. And, seeing as stress has been linked to everything from heart disease to type 2 diabetes, both your mental and physical health would benefit from you putting a limit on your social media use.
Having a bad boss
Being in a toxic work environment is toxic for your health, too. One 2017 study from the University of Manchester's Business School, for instance, found that those who worked for "psychopathic" and "narcissistic" bosses were more likely to be depressed. And in another 2019 study published in the International Journal of Environment Research and Public Health, researchers looked at 400,000 American workers and found that men who mistrusted their bosses had a 22 percent increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, while women with bad bosses had a 29 percent increased risk for the same conditions.
Not having a support system at work
Especially if you have a bad boss, take the extra time at work to make sure that you have at least a few friends in your sea of coworkers. In 2018, researchers from the University of East Anglia and Stockholm University found that the more social support a person had in the office, the better their self-perceived health and depressive symptoms.
Being a night owl
Even if you get some of your best work done after midnight, you might want to reconsider your night owl habits. Not only does frequently staying up late mess with your sleep schedule, but one 2013 study published in Chronobiology International found that people who favored the evening were 2.5 times more likely to have type 2 diabetes than those who were more active in the morning.
Or pulling just one all-nighter
Even just one late night at the office can do major damage to your body—and it's often all for naught. That's because every additional hour of sleep deprivation is associated with a further decrease in memory function, according to David Earnest, PhD, a sleep professor with the Texas A&M College of Medicine. "Sleep deprivation's effect on working memory is staggering," Earnest said in a press release about his 2016 study on the subject.
Being in an unhappy marriage
When it comes to things that hurt your health, it's important to mention marriage. Just like a good marriage can improve a person's mental and physical health, a bad marriage can do the opposite.
For instance, one 2000 study from the University of Toronto found that when people in unhappy marriages were with their spouses, their blood pressure increased. And in another 2014 study from Michigan State University, researchers found that older individuals in bad marriages were more at risk of heart disease than those in happy relationships. If you want to protect your heart and your overall health, then make sure that you're addressing your issues with your spouse.
Living in a busy area
The area in which you live—and whether you're in an urban or suburban environment—can play a pretty big role in your overall wellbeing, especially if you're an older individual. A 2011 study published in the European Heart Journal found that for those over 65 years old, every 10-decibel rise in noise was associated with a 27 percent higher risk of stroke.
What's more, another 2010 Dutch study concluded that psychiatric disorders, mood disorders, and anxiety disorders are all more prevalent in urban areas thanks to things like social isolation and noise.
Or sitting in traffic
Sitting in a traffic jam is frustrating, for sure—but in addition to that, it's also bad for your body. A 2016 study published in the journal Atmospheric Environment found that simply sitting in traffic with the windows closed and the fan on can increase your exposure to toxic fumes by as much as 76 percent.
Working the night shift
There's a reason why people loathe working the night shift. This type of work messes with the body's internal clocks, and the National Institutes of Health note that "long-term disruption of circadian rhythms has been linked to obesity, diabetes, and other health problems related to the body's metabolism."
Sleeping too much
Just because your body needs rest in order to function doesn't mean that it needs endless hours of it. On the contrary, when Harvard researchers analyzed some 11 reports pertaining to the relationship between sleep duration and diabetes, they found that every additional hour a person slept beyond the recommended seven hours was associated with a 14 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
And not having a consistent sleep schedule
Sleeping in on the weekend might be a nice change of pace, but it's ultimately going to mess up your circadian rhythm. What's more, one 2019 study published in the journal Current Biology concluded that using the weekend to catch up on missed sleep during the weekdays "is not an effective strategy to prevent metabolic dysregulation associated with recurrent insufficient sleep." Though subjects involved in the study ate less and had improved insulin sensitivity when they slept in, those improvements were immediately lost as soon as they started sleeping less again.
Forgetting to wash your sheets
Believe it or not, your unwashed bedsheets could hurt your body and make you sick. In fact, one 2018 analysis from Amerisleep found that the average one-week-old pillowcase contains some 3 million colony-forming units of bacteria per square inch, which is 17,442 times more bacteria than you'd find on the average toilet seat.
Putting your purse on the kitchen counter
Stop putting your purse on the kitchen counter ASAP. One 2013 study by hygiene and washroom company Initial Washroom Hygiene found that the average pocketbook contains more strains of bacteria than the typical toilet seat. Specifically, the study found that 1 in 5 handbags carries enough bacteria to make the average person sick.
Eating late at night
Try to eat dinner and get out of the kitchen as early as possible—if you don't, you're putting your physical wellbeing in jeopardy. A 2011 study published in the journal Obesity found that "caloric intake after 8 p.m. may increase the risk of obesity." So, as long as you eat the bulk of your food before 8 p.m., you (and your waistline) should be good to go!
Or eating at your desk
Eating lunch at your desk might be good for your job performance, but it's not doing the rest of you any favors. In one 2013 meta-analysis of 24 studies published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers concluded that eating while distracted results in "a moderate increase in immediate intake" as well as increased food consumption later on. And, of course, overeating is only going to lead to health problems down the line.
Or eating out often
If you want to avoid obesity and the health complications that come with it, then you should also stop eating out so often. A 2014 study published in the journal Public Health Nutrition found that on average, people who cooked dinner six or seven times per week consumed 137 fewer calories than those who only cooked once a week.
"When people cook most of their meals at home, they consume fewer carbohydrates, less sugar, and less fat than those who cook less or not at all—even if they are not trying to lose weight," the study's lead author Julia A. Wolfson, MPP, a fellow at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, said in a press release.
Celebrating your birthday a little too much
The mere act of celebrating your birthday and blowing out the candles is not going to hurt your health. But if you take things too far—as birthday partiers tend to do—you could end up hurting both yourself and those around you. Consider that in one 2014 study published in the journal Addiction, researchers studied hospital admissions for those between the ages of 12 to 30 over a five-year period, and they found that birthday weeks were associated with a spike in hospitalizations. Specifically, the week in which teenagers turned 19 (the legal drinking age in Ontario, where the participants were from) was associated with a 114 percent increase in hospitalizations for men and a 164 percent increase in hospitalizations for women.
Sleeping in contact lenses
Sleeping in your contact lenses is a huge no-no. According to the National Sleep Foundation, this bad habit can cause things like contact lens acute red eye (CLARE), ulcers, and serious infections. If you're not careful, you could even get to the point where you're never able to wear contacts again!
Having angry outbursts
If you're worried about your wellbeing, then now is the perfect time to get your anger in check. According to a 2015 study from the University of Sydney, angry outbursts can raise the risk of a heart attack for up to two hours following the incident, especially in those who are predisposed to heart disease. Specifically, subjects who experienced periods during which they were "very angry" were 8.5 times more likely to have a heart attack in the two hours that followed.
If you frequently feel isolated, you might have those feelings to blame for your health problems, too. Studies have linked feelings of loneliness to everything from a loss of concentration to an increased risk of heart disease. And if that's not enough to scare you into dealing with your emotions, here are The Startling Ways Loneliness Can Destroy Your Health.
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