The immune system fights off diseases every single day. We are told to avoid the spread of germs by washing our hands and covering our faces when we cough or sneeze. However, have we learned any similar remedies for handling a smart phone? Just imagine how many germs sit on your screen, buttons, and case on a regular basis. Touching a mobile device is essentially another way to spread sickness. There may be even more bacteria on a smart phone than other common places. Do you think the greasy, oily residue that clogs your cell phone screen everyday has more germs on it than, let’s say, a toilet seat? The researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Queen Mary, University of London, wondered the same thing. They conducted a study that sampled 390 smart phones and hands to determine the level of bacteria and disease-prone germs. The dramatic results revealed that 92 percent of the phones had bacteria on them. Further, 82 percent of the hands also contained bacteria. Although this is not shocking, it is a bit disturbing to learn that 16 percent of these phones and hands had E. Coli on them. Therefore, it is relatively easy for fecal matter to also be transferred via cell phone from one person to another. Yummy!
Increased Risk Of Illnesses
Now that we have covered the adverse affects of touching smart phones with your hands, let’s explore other ways they can affect your physical health. These mobile devices can really be a pain in the neck, back, and shoulders — literally. Not only does the hand response of text messages and emails cause an inflammation of your joints, but back and neck pain is also associated with prolonged smart phone usage. If you hold your phone between your neck and your shoulders as you browse the Internet, you can have adverse affects on your spine. Next time you are holding your phone in such a manner, glance in a mirror at how strange your body posture is. You may not be aware of it just yet, but this uncomfortable position will cause you direct pain. Headaches may also be associated with the awkward stance. Dr. Dean Fishman, a physical therapist, coined this painful problem ‘text neck’ in 2008. He discovered the issue after examining a teenage patient. He was complaining of headaches and neck pain, but was unsure of where the problem came from. As Dr. Dean Fishman was discussing the matter with the patient’s mother, he noticed her posture while using the smart phone. Dr. Dean Fishman explains it is not just texting that is the culprit. It is using a smart phone in general for gaming, emailing, and browsing the Internet. The doctor explains that the average human head weighs about 10 pounds in neutral position when your ears are over your shoulders. The moment you begin to tilt your head, the pressure on the spine doubles per inch. The position in which most people hold their smart phones puts an extra 30 to 60 pounds of pressure on the neck.
Increased Risk Of Chronic Pain
Another physical health problem stemmed from using smart phones is associated with eye vision problems. The Vision Council explains that over 70 percent of Americans do not realize that they can get digital eye strain. This is caused by squinting at the much smaller smart phone screen. According to testing, the pupils tend to get smaller, which forces the eye muscles to adjust the size of lens. This makes the two eyes converge. This happens when you stare at a smart phone for hours. It strains the eyes, which also causes headaches. Tension headaches can also occur from staring at lit screens for a long amount of time. You can even get muscle spasms in the temples, which is another trigger for headaches, because of reading dark print on an extremely bright background. This is why certain e-readers feature black text on a gray background. It is not only easier to read, but also prevents headaches. Another issue is the fact that your blink rate decreases as you look at things up close. This means your tears evaporate quicker than what they normally would, which causes dry eyes. If you already suffer from dry eyes because of contact lens or any other condition, then you should avoid looking at a smart phone screen for too long. Dry eyes can cause itching and strong blinking along with grit collection.
Increased Risk Of Eye Vision Problems
It might sound silly, but texting really takes a toll on your thumbs. Whether you are typing an email, scrolling through Facebook, or playing a game, your thumbs are in motion. In fact, they bear the brunt of smart phone pounding. The phrase “BlackBerry thumb” generated when users started to get sores and blisters from overusing keypads. This painful nuisance is a modern-day issue because of mobile devices specifically. Margot Miller is a physical therapist and the president of the Occupational Health Section of the Orthopedic Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. She explained to ABCNews.com that pain, numbness, and discomfort in the base of the thumbs is caused from overusing them. Repeating a stress injury will certainly cause such a problem. Generally these strains are minor. However, Dr. Richard Brown who is an orthopedic hand surgeon at the Scripps Memorial Hospital claims there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people with pain in their thumbs. This is most notably due to smart phone usage. In certain cases, Dr. Richard Brown must issue therapy, write a medical prescription, put them in a splint, or operate. Even grabbing your phone too much can cause muscle tension in the forearm, wrist, or hand. Tendonitis can occur as a result of any repetitive motor activity; this is similar to carpel tunnel.
Many people complain that smart phones have taken over actual conversation. When people hang out or go out for lunch together, they are often staring at their phones rather than talking to each other. This type of interaction can affect mental health. The University of Essex in the United Kingdom did two studies about this type of interaction and how it can negatively affect people’s feelings and emotions towards each other. One study revealed that using a smart phone or similar mobile device during a nose-to-nose conversation made people perceive users in a less positive manner. This was determined after 37 pairs of strangers were asked to spend about ten minutes talking to each other about an event. Half of the pairs were surrounding by those using device and the other half remained without devices. The second study used 34 pairs of strangers. Half of them were once again asked to discuss life events while the others talked about trivial topics. Half of the participants chatted while using a smart phone or mobile device; the other half had a notebook instead. Those that used a notebook rather than a cell phone felt a more intense form of trust and closeness. Researchers explain that studies signify that smart phones directly interfere with human relationships and emotions, especially during a meaningful conversation.
A Negative Effect On Emotions And Trust
Another explain of the way smart phones affect mental health is through the constant ringing, vibrating, reminders, and alerts that are heard and felt on a daily basis. It is enough to put a cell phone user on edge to say the least. The University of Gothenburg in Sweden did a study connecting a link between the psychosocial aspects of cell phone use with mental health symptoms. This research was conducted in young adults from 20 to 24 years of age. They completed a questionnaire and a follow-up questionnaire one year later. The results show that women who frequently used smart phones had more stress and sleep disturbances whereas men who had the same tendencies suffered from sleep disturbances as well as symptoms of depression. Of course, these instances can be triggered by other life events that occurred throughout the one-year process. However, that is not to undermine the questionnaire and the direct correlation to cell phone use. It is safe to assume that we all have been woken up by a smart phone alert more than once in the night. The noise may have been a text message, email, game reminder, or other non-essential sound. Naturally, our sleep would have remained undisturbed if it was not for the frequent usage.
Increased Stress Levels
Another common way smart phone usage affects mental health is the feeling to constantly check social media, email, and other internet settings. Technology addiction is a real thing, especially among younger people. They cannot help but to browse Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms on a regular basis. Sometimes the addiction is even more frivolous as they update their statuses every hour. In 2012, Swansea and Milan Universities discovered that heavy Internet users suffered from withdrawal symptoms similar to those experienced by drug users. When they were offline, they could not wait to get back online. In fact, 66 percent of people reportedly felt panicky without their cell phone. The amount of technology we process on a regular basis is actually changing our brains. The addiction people feel without having Internet access combined with the need to consistently multitask is forcing our minds to operate on a different level than they used to. Adam Gazzaley is a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco. He explained to the New York Times in 2010 that we are already aware of the consequences of this technology addiction. Are you guilty of wanting to check social media every day, every few hours, or more? What would you do if you had to go without your smart phone for a day or, dare we say, a week? You may have an addiction.