It appears that Smartphones are bad for our health. A plethora of recent studies have looked into our daily habits and discovered that there are a myriad of ways in which our favourite toys are doing us harm, some of which are obvious, some of which are really quite surprising. How many of these phone-busting facts were you aware of…?
Phones are a pain in the neck! (and back). The number of young people with back problems has risen sharply over the last year or so, with up to 45% of 16 to 24-year-olds feeling the effects of leaning and stooping over their phones, which can put pressure on spinal discs. And as anyone who has experienced back ache will tell you, it can be fierce, repetitive and a real drag on your mood.
Talking of stooping and leaning over your phone, the risk of accidents whilst absorbed in your screen jumps hugely. You are much more likely to walk into a solid object, trip over your feet, and walk into the road without looking or paying attention to traffic lights. And as any police officer will tell you, using your mobile while driving—even simply listening to someone else talk—is a bad idea and can lead to critical loss of attention.
And if you’re not meandering into a road or smacking into a lamppost, it probably means you’re sitting down—which is another negative offshoot of technological advancement. Lack of physical activity is rife in the smartphone era: it’s so much easier to phone or text than step out of the house or office to go see someone. And that’s not even mentioning the endless hours of games we play on our phones on the commute home and in our living rooms. But our sedentary lifestyles are catching up with us. Obesity increases the risk of serious cardiovascular diseases and some cancers, and puts a huge strain on our bodies. All-you-can-eat data is not a good thing.
Research also indicates that depression and anxiety are on the rise, with many young people affected. Having constant access to the web, with its dark corners, is not ideal, but a lot of mental health issues can arise from surprising avenues. With the knowledge that most people have their phone with them 24-7, a slight lull in email or text alerts can falsely convince a person that they’re being ignored or excluded by people who mean a lot to them. In addition to this, there’s been lot of research into the negative effects of social media on self-esteem: young people are constantly exposed to photos and profiles that are curated and perfected, leading to the false impression that their friends all have perfect, stress-free lives, which can build an inferiority complex and anxiety that you are doing something wrong, or living life in the wrong way. Social media is a powerful tool that has the power to bring people together, but its downsides are an extremely serious issue that has yet to be properly addressed.
Another danger of smartphones is that it can impact your sleeping patterns. Exposure to even small amounts of bright light, especially later in the evening, can interfere with the brain’s production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness. In addition to this, answering emails last thing at night, or playing a stimulating game, will put you into a state of alertness or stress that is less than ideal for drifting off to the land of nod.
Interrupted sleep leads neatly onto the next topic of reduced attention span. The constant exposure to links, updates or alerts—and the dopamine hit that this gives us—greatly reduces our ability to concentrate on one task with full concentration. And as nearly all phone-users know, even the physical presence of a mobile can distract us and take our attention away from our nearest and dearest, as the true extent of our addiction (and let’s make no bones about it—it is an addiction) becomes cruelly apparent. And as we become more phone-centric, we lose connection not only with our friends and family, but we can also impair the development of our children. For thousands of years babies and children have bonded with us through eye contact and learned social cues by observing us communicate and examining our facial expressions. Experts have warned that if we have our eyes locked on our phones when interacting with those around us—and with our children—then we risk losing some key connections and developmental milestones down the line.
What’s the solution to all this glumness? Well, I’m not sure there is a quick-fix or antidote, but we at Hoogly have an idea how to take a step in the right direction: Put the kettle on, make a gorgeous cup of Hoogly tea, wrap both hands around the mug, let the taste and scent elevate your senses and bring you a sense of mindful tranquillity—and then repeat!!
Written by Chris Bedford