Smartphones, A Hazzard to Our Health?

I think we are to blame for a this health hazard.

Just the other day I found myself considering how my behavior with smartphones has been setting a bad example for my children. As the technology took off I became fascinated with the use of these devices. All the things we could do with them, the access we have to information from them. I was excited for each new “version” that apple would release, but never was one to buy a new phone every year. Now I can see how our children observed our overuse and are now mirroring our behavior.

Is our use, or overuse, of smartphones a problem? I don’t want to get too deep into this. I think we can agree that if our children are overusing smartphones today it is likely due to the world we created. Whether it was our own use of these devices they are mirroring OR it is the connected world we all played a part in creating even if only by being a user. What I mean by that last part is you and I likely didn’t develop these apps we use but we used them. By using them, by interacting with them they became better. More were created to meet our demand. The connected world was developed due to our interaction with it.

I want to discuss two papers I came across recently regarding young adults/teenagers and the consequence of their smartphone use. I won’t be getting into the whole 5G controversy. There is controversy because despite people saying it’s safe. There is a lot of reason to believe it is not. These wavelengths do cause damage to our cells. That is all I am going to say.

A Hazard to our Children’s Health.

Smart Phone use time correlated with degenerative spinal changes.

In this paper the authors went about looking to see if there was a relationship between smartphone use time and degenerative (osteoarthitic) changes in the cervical spine of young adults aged 20-35. These authors collected data from 107 young adults who presented to an outpatient clinic with neck pain between 2016-2018. They divided the participants into two groups; group 1 admitted to using smartphones for less than three hours a day and group 2 used smartphones more than three hours a day. The authors used MRI to measure the cervical spinal curve, disc height, and looked for other signs of spinal degeneration.

They found that participants in group 2 had far greater numbers of decreased disc height, they found more signs of spinal degeneration, and the spinal curve in this group was worse than those in group 1. They go on to discuss these results by saying that the flexed forward head position puts excessive loading on spinal joints. Contributing to accelerated degenerative changes and altered spinal curvature.

The significance is huge. We know that spinal degeneration is a process that typically takes years to occur, but here researchers are seeing it in a younger age group than typical. They also collected data going back 2-4 years ago. Has smartphone use gone up in younger age groups or down? How much worse could this be if we are letting our 13-12-10 year old’s use a smartphone. It is possible we could see an epidemic of spinal degeneration and it’s consequences ten years from now.

Smartphone addiction correlated to lower thoughts of purpose in young adults.

This was an interesting one. A study of 677 university students studying in the Health Sciences. These authors examined how students with smartphone addiction viewed themselves. If you are unsure about smartphone addiction I would check into this study.

The authors of this study found that in students that scored worse for smartphone addiction, they also scored the lowest for understanding their own meaning and purpose of life. While this paper is more difficult to understand it is significant because to shows the potential effect to our mental health smartphone addiction or overuse may have. The more we develop an unhealthy use of our smartphone the more unsure of what our life purpose is. Young adults have a tendency to struggle with finding the meaning or purpose of their life in recent years. This could mean increasing rates of depression and anxiety in the next generation.

What do we do about it.

Knowing is Half the Battle.

As my favorite childhood cartoon heroes used to say, Knowing is Half the Battle. It is important to understand that smartphone use doesn’t come without it’s consequences. These are not harmless devices. Our use of them may impact our health in a negative way. This impact might only come with excessive use or addiction but even knowing that we can become addicted to smartphone use is something important to understand.

Even the things that are good for us can kill us if we use or consume too much. We can die from consuming too much water for instance, and I don’t mean by drowning. There is sufficient evidence to say too much smartphone or smart device use is harmful to our health. We need to understand this for our own health and for the example we set to our children.

Limit your smartphone or smart device use at least to less than three hours a day. Even that seems too much but this number is from our first study so it is the best evidence based recommendation I can make based on what I presented. Also watch the social dilemma documentary. It is a great eye opener to the problem of social media. If you have teenagers, watch it with them.

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