These days, smartphones are so ubiquitous that there’s roughly a 70% chance you’re reading this on one right now. Of all the technological advancements made in recent times, the smartphone has arguably been one of the most transformative. But for all the good that smartphones have brought into our lives, there is bound to be some bad.
Although we are still in the early days of smartphones, there have been a lot of questions surrounding the impact they will have on our physical health. While we won’t be able to fully understand the impacts and effects that these phones have on us for years to come, we can already see that they are going to be a public health issue.
To say that smartphones have revolutionised our daily lives would be an understatement. At this stage, they can help us meet pretty much all of our basic needs. From online shopping services and take-aways to banking and ordering alcohol, the majority of our daily lives can now be run from the couch.
This of course means that our lives are increasingly sedentary, which is a major contributing factor to Ireland’s growing obesity epidemic. The World Health Organisation has warned that by 2030, as much as 89% of Irish men and 85% of Irish women could be obese. This sedentary lifestyle also affects people’s physical strength, energy levels and mood. Furthermore, the number of people self-diagnosing online means that fewer people are getting accurate medical advice regularly. This is something that is quite likely to pose a big problem for society a few years down the road if it is not addressed today.
When it comes to texting, Ireland is one of the top countries globally based on texts per person. This may seem like a harmless activity, but when you consider how much time we spend with our necks pointed downward, you can see how it might contribute to neck pain. When texting, we tend to tilt our head forward at a 60 degree angle, which puts our neck under a lot of extra strain. Although we probably hunch too much when staring at our phones in general, it is when texting or typing that we hunch the most, so make an active effort to hold your phone at eye level.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
One of the most immediately obvious consequences of a smartphone is the effect it has on our hands. Even in the early years, we can see that smartphones are completely changing the way we use our hands and arms. Up until a few years ago, our index fingers have always been the dominant digit, but thanks to our reliance on smartphones, our thumbs have taken on that title. This may not sound like much, but it is a huge shift in human behaviour, and one that took place in an astonishingly short amount of time.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is another example of an effect that we can see already. Constantly using our hands, usually in extremely repetitive motions, has led to a huge increase in the prevalence of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. A study published in 2015 found that, as well as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, smartphone overuse can cause thumb pain, median nerve pain (palm pain), and a reduced strength and function in the hand.
While we are still in the first stages of truly understanding the effects that smartphones will have on our health, the extent of the problem will only come to light in the future. But based on what we have seen already, we can estimate that smartphones will have extensive and far-reaching effects on our health. Just what these are remains to be seen, but we can all invest in our own futures by limiting our smartphone use, and being conscious of what we spend our time doing with our bodies.