We love cell phones, and they certainly come in handy: They help with scheduling and research, give us access to maps, and enable us to make emergency calls. But, helpful as they may be, there are also some unhealthy side effects that come with cell phone use. Withdrawal, neck and eye stress, and germs are just a handful — read on to discover 5 health problems your cell phone could be causing.
1. Neck pain
It’s common to see people walking around with cell phones and texting at the table. Whether we use our phones for SnapChat or reading, our lives are increasingly mobile — and that means that we are constantly looking down, which puts a lot of stress on our necks. A study, published in the journal Surgical Technology International, found that looking down at a cell phone is the equivalent to placing a 60-pound weight on one’s neck. To help put it into perspective, a medium-sized dog and a small child both weigh about 60 pounds. Putting that amount of stress on your neck is bound to cause trouble.
Aches and pains in your neck and shoulders are just the beginning. Unless you train yourself to stare straight into your screen, you are continually stressing your spine. “These stresses,” study author Kenneth Hansraj MD writes, “may lead to early wear, tear, degeneration, and possibly surgeries.” Similar to sitting up straight while you’re on your computer, work on keeping your head in a neutral position while you’re looking at your phone. It’ll keep your neck in alignment and eliminate most of the stress on your neck.
Blue lights may sound pretty, but the reality isn’t as charming. Although blue light is part of the natural light spectrum, exposure to it at night — which is emitted at high levels by smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other LED screens — can be damaging your vision.
Direct, close exposure to blue light has been shown to cause retina damage, according to research in the British Journal of Ophthalmology. A connection has also been found between blue light and cataracts. “Computer Vision Syndrome” is a common side effect of cell phone use (complaints include eye soreness, dizziness, blurry vision, headaches, and muscle strain), partly because when we’re looking at a phone screen, we blink half as often as we normally would.
Limiting cell phone use at night, taking breaks from your screen every 20 minutes, making a conscious effort to blink more, and increasing the font size can all help to alleviate symptoms.
If you own a smart phone, chances are you take it everywhere. Cell phones move from the kitchen to work to public restrooms, and possibly even to bed. They’re also in constant contact with our hands, faces, and ears. The Wall Street Journal decided to conduct their own study on this matter and found that cell phones can contain just as many germs as a public restroom toilet.
Even though the heat coming from phones seems minimal, bacteria love it. Germs that cause conditions like pink eye, diarrhea, and the flu can all be found on phones. When you’re washing your hands, don’t forget to show your cell phone a little love. Cleaning your cell phone with an alcohol-based cleanser is your best bet — just make sure it’s safe for screens.
Do you wake up and check your phone? Is it the last thing you do before you do to bed? Cell phone addiction sounds like a joke, but it’s likely that you are either heading in that direction or are already addicted.
Dr. David Greenfield, the director of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, says around 90% of Americans fall in the category of overusing, abusing, or misusing their devices, according to a nationwide survey he conducted with 1,000 people in conjunction with AT&T.
Here are four easy rules to keep your cell habit on a healthy level:
- No phones in the bathroom
- Don’t text and drive
- Turn your phone off (not vibrate) during social activities
- Try leaving your phone at home
While there’s no need to go out and build a bunker or toss your phones (yet), the World Health Organization has reported that radiation levels emitted from cell phones to be “possibly carcinogenic.” As far as posing a health risk, phone radiation would fall in the same category as DDT and car exhaust.
Although the phone industry does have regulations in place to control radiation output from phones, conditions like genetic damage, brain dysfunction, brain tumors, disorders, and headaches have all been linked to cell radiation.
The best thing you can do is to put your phone down. There’s no need to keep your cell on you 24/7. Creating some digital distance will keep you healthier in the long run.