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In today’s super-connected world, where would we be without our digital devices? Smartphones, tablets, computers, TVs – we’re now reliant on them for almost everything. They keep us connected with friends and family, they educate and entertain, they offer an escape from the everyday, and they give us the freedom to work from anywhere.
But with so many of us spending more time than ever using devices, should we all be paying closer attention to the potential damaging effects of this increased screentime? The Occupational Healthcare specialists at YourGP believe we should. Here’s why…
The science of screentime and problems with sleep
Back-lit devices such as smartphones and tablets emit blue light which is made of shorter wave lengths. This means our eyes have to work harder to focus, which can cause eye strain when used for long periods of time.
This blue light can also disrupt melatonin production, a hormone needed to help you fall asleep at night. Using your phone before heading to bed can therefore make drifting off to sleep more difficult, especially if you play games or scroll through newsfeeds, as this engages the brain, making you feel more alert.
Muscle aches and pains
The average office worker spends around six and a half hours a day sitting in front of a computer, according to research. When this is followed by after-work ‘downtime’ looking at a laptop on the sofa, or hunched over a mobile phone, this can place considerable strain on your upper body. Over time, it can lead to chronic pain in the neck, shoulders, and back.
Those with existing vision problems may find their issues are exacerbated with increased screentime. This can often be because of the computer screen glare, brightness or angle of the screen, or the size of the content on the screen. Common issues include eye strain, light sensitivity, headaches, and increased frequency and severity of migranes. There is also research that suggests people actually blink less frequently when looking at a screen, which can lead to their eyes becoming drier.
The more time we spend in front of a screen, the less time we spend being physically active. Couple this with the fact that people tend to eat more food of less nutritional value whilst watching a screen, and it is easy to see why obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases are such growing problems.
Impact on mental health
Recent studies have shown an association between screentime and depression. In fact, the findings of a study by Madhav, Sherchand and Sherchan suggest that screentime is a significant risk factor or marker of mental disorders among adults. They also highlighted the impact of screentime on people’s sleep quality which can have a negative knock-on effect on their ability to cope with stress, which can then result in increased anxiety.
Encouraging healthier habits at work
With so many of our daily work tasks now carried out online, employers have a responsibility to limit any potential negative impact resulting from screentime. There are many ways in which you can do this:
Healthier habits to adopt at home
Of course, the impact of excessive screentime can pose just as much of a problem at home as it can in the office. So whilst at home, why not try the following ideas:
Find out more
Of course, we’re not suggesting that people should ditch their digital devices for good. However, it is important to be mindful of how much time we are all spending at our screens, raise awareness of the potentially damaging effects that excessive screentime can have, and take active steps to reduce those risks. Get in touch with YourGP’s team of Occupational Health specialists on 0131 225 5656 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like further help implementing these positive changes in your workplace.
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