Are you constantly checking your phone? Staring at a screen for the majority of your day as part of your work, recreation or both? Do you constantly find yourself checking social media, instant messaging and emailing others? Then have you ever considered the serious impact that this screen time might have on your health and wellbeing?
Many doctors and researchers have been able to prove that overloading on screen time is a very real problem in the Western world and is greatly affecting both adults’ and children’s health. Although it is not currently recognised as a clinical addiction, many health professionals also believe that there are a large number of people in society who now suffer from screen addiction.
So much of today’s environment relies on electronics. People are dependent on them with many barely able to leave them behind. Whether it is a phone, computer, tablet or even a TV, these screens are having a genuine impact on our health – and that of our children.
Let us take a closer look at some of the implications of spending hours in front of a screen.
Screen time on the body
There is a simple correlation between the increasing number of hours that both adults and children spend sat in front of a computer screen, mobile device or games console, and a deterioration in physical health. Whether at work or at home in one’s bedroom, screen time can be linked to weight gain and the subsequent threat of heart attacks, strokes, type-2 diabetes and increased blood pressure.
Another factor that should not be overlooked is the musculoskeletal impact of long hours in an office chair. Screen addictions and enforced time in front of a computer can lead to neck, shoulder and lower back issues caused through poor posture and seating that does nothing to relieve pressure.
Among children, the decrease in time spent playing outdoors not only prevents the normal development of the cardiovascular system, but can also impact on muscle and bone development. While adults certainly feel the effects of less time on their feet, the physical and cognitive development of children is thought to rely on the varied nature of outdoor activities – hence the reason it has become such a worry among medical experts.
Screen time on the brain
The concerns about stimulation on the brain have not yet been proven beyond doubt. However, research among screen addicts and heavy users does suggest that too long spent in front of a digital device can result in grey matter shrinkage, a reduction in white matter’s ability to communicate and a reduction in cognitive performance.
Cognitive issues are thought to be exacerbated by the impact of screen time on sleep. The blue light from digital devices is proven to play a role in keeping us awake when viewed just before bedtime. If ample time is not given to allow the brain to wind down, screen addicts and heavy screen users can suffer from insomnia and other forms of sleep deprivation.
Sleep is well known to play a crucial role in cognitive function – helping to consolidate memories, facilitate mental agility and avoid long-term problems such as Alzheimer’s disease. Sleep also has a role to play in hormone control – hormones that typically moderate appetite, weight and stress.
Addiction on the eyes
As part of July’s “Eye Injury Prevention Month”, digital screens have come under particular scrutiny. In decades gone by, parents around the world may have erroneously told their children that too much TV time would make their eyes go square. Yet, there is something to be said for the eye strain caused by backlit screens. Too much time in front of a screen can damage the retina and ultimately lead to loss of eye sight in serious cases.