Is your cell phone causing you harm? From sore necks to weight gain, researchers say it can


If you use your cell phone daily, you've most likely felt it: Neck and back pain caused by the weight of your head looking down at your device. — Photo by Josh Withers on Unsplash

STATEN ISLAND: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assures us that low levels of radiation emitted from cell phones will not cause health problems, but the hours most Americans spend looking at their devices can harm us in many other ways, studies show.

Since nearly 97% of American adults now own a cell phone of some kind, according to the Pew Research Center, and the average American now spends an average of eight and half hours in front of theirs, our bodies are showing some tear from all that wear, researchers have found.

From sore necks to heightened anxiety and even weight gain, researchers have found plenty of ailments to blame on the daily use of cell phones, according to Bestlife.com.

Here's a list of some of the surprising ways we're harmed by daily cell phone use:

Anxiety

It keeps us connected to a large circle of friends, but using your phone causes social anxiety, experts have reported. For many people, anxiety is heightened by feeling the need to respond immediately to every text and email we receive. Many feel pressure to compete with what others post, perceiving others' lifestyles as better, more productive and more satisfying than their own.

Neck pain

If you use your cell phone daily, you've most likely felt it: Neck and back pain caused by the weight of your head looking down at your device. It can be exacerbated if you also spend a good deal of time watching TV or working on a computer. Dubbed "Tech Neck," by doctors, it can be treated with medication, physical therapy and efforts to raise the screen, so neck tilt isn't needed. Using data from 100 hospitals in the US, Harvard Medical School researchers reviewed injuries to the head and neck related to cell phone use affecting more than 2,500 people over the last 20 years. Analysis of these injuries showed the rate of such injuries have increased dramatically since 2007, the year Apple released the iPhone.

"The biggest thing you have to do to combat text neck is to stop looking down by bringing your device up so that it's in front of your face rather than below it," Dr Nicholas Riccio, D.C., a Manhattan-based chiropractor told Bestlife.com. "A good way to practice appropriate posture is to work on looking with your eyes instead of your entire head. If you have a long dangly earring on, you'd want it to hit the midline of your shoulder," said Riccio.

He added that the neck pain, if ignored, could eventually lead to pain lower in the back, too. "The muscles pull on the bones and the bones get pulled on," he said. "The more they get pulled on, the more they change to accommodate that new pressure."

Sleep disturbances

The blue light emitted by a cell phone disrupts our circadian rhythm, researchers have long known. The rhythm tells the body when to sleep and when to wake. The blue light also delays melatonin production, making it difficult to fall asleep, leading to insomnia and daily fatigue, according to sleep.org.

Temporary blindness

Lying on your side while reading your phone in bed can actually cause temporary blindness, according to a report in Forbes Magazine which quotes a study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Apparently, when you lie on your side to read, one eye is blocked by the pillow, allowing the other eye to receive all the light. You effectively "bleach" the light-sensitive pigments in that eye, making them less sensitive to regular light than the other eye — temporarily.

It's the same effect as coming indoors after being in the bright sun — you feel a little blind for a few minutes, until your eyes adjust, Forbes reported.

You risk being hit by a car

Phones are dangerous in the hands of drivers — and pedestrians, too. A study published in the "Journal of Community Health," and reported on Bestlife.com observed 21,760 pedestrians at five busy intersections in Manhattan. It found that half of the people crossing in spite of a "Don't Walk" signal were wearing headphones, talking on the phone or looking at an electronic device.

Lack of empathy

A University of Michigan study found that college students from this decade are 40% less empathetic than college students were 30 years ago. The cause is a combination of exposure to more media and social media, most often viewed on a cell phone by young people.

"The ease of having 'friends' online might make people more likely to just tune out when they don't feel like responding to others' problems, a behaviour that could carry over offline," one of the researchers at the University of Michigan said. "Add in the hypercompetitive atmosphere and inflated expectations of success, borne of celebrity "reality shows," and you have a social environment that works against slowing down and listening to someone who needs "a bit of sympathy."

Weight gain

Scrolling all day tends to come with other unhealthy behaviours, like eating unhealthy foods and drinking sugary drinks, studies have found. It also leads us to spend more time sitting, rather than being out shopping or walking.

Researchers found that people who used their smartphones for more than five hours a day were 43% more likely to be obese than those who scrolled for less time.

Mirary Mantilla-Morrón, a cardiac pulmonary and vascular rehabilitation specialist at the Health Sciences Faculty at the Simón Bolívar University in Barranquilla, Colombia, who conducted a study on cell phones and obesity, told Runners World magazine just that.

"Technology facilitates our lives,"Mantilla-Morrón said. "However, we must be aware of a healthy diet and daily practice of physical activity. We should also (make sure to hit) activity guidelines during academic and work days." – Staten Island Advance, N.Y./Tribune News Service

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