pexels eren li 7241330

Phone Addiction: How Smartphones Can Affect Your Health

v2

There is no doubt that smartphones are an important part of everyday life. We use it for work, education, communication, news and entertainment. However, studies have revealed some negative effects of smartphones on their users. How can smart phones affect our health?

It causes an “imbalance” of chemicals in the brain

A recent study from the Pew Research Center revealed that 46% of Americans “can’t live without their smartphone.” This expression is a major health concern, as the study discovered that smartphone addiction can lead to an imbalance in the neurotransmitter, GABA.

GABA, short for gamma-aminobutyric acid, is a major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the nervous system. It regulates various brain functions and, as an inhibitory chemical, can cause symptoms such as drowsiness. In the study, the researchers found that young adults with phone addiction showed increased levels of GABA in one area of ​​the brain. According to investigators, this can lead to anxiety.

What you can do about it:

Try to take a break from your devices. There are many ways to do this. For example, you can choose to temporarily deactivate one of your social media accounts or designate “smartphone-free” days during the week. You can also only use your gadgets in certain places in your home, such as your study or home office.

It can hinder your cognitive ability

Cognitive capacity is the total amount of information that a person’s brain is able to hold at a given moment. With more and more people relying on smartphones, researchers couldn’t help but wonder: How do smartphones affect cognitive health?

A 2017 study revealed that the mere presence of smartphones can reduce a person’s cognitive ability. Before testing the participants’ cognitive abilities, the researchers divided them into three groups:

  • I left their set of phones in another room.
  • The next group kept their phones in their pockets or bags.
  • The last group left their smartphones on their desk.

Results showed that participants in the first group “performed better” than those who left their phones on their desk. Furthermore, the researchers also concluded that while participants were successful in resisting the temptation to check their phones, the mere presence of smartphones still “reduced available cognitive ability” because it allowed additional information, entertainment, and distractions to be on hand at all times.

What you can do about it:

When trying to get a task done, avoid placing your smartphone on your desk or inside your pocket. If you can, leave him inside a hard-to-reach drawer or another room. Furthermore, disable as many notifications as possible and put your phone on silent mode.

Promotes “digital amnesia”

Cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab coined the term “digital amnesia”. This refers to a person’s reliance on digital technology to remember important things.

In researching how smartphones affect our health (especially our memory), Kaspersky Lab conducted a study of 1,000 US consumers between the ages of 16 and 55. Alarmingly, 91 percent of the participants agreed that they use their smartphones “as an extension of their brains.” Moreover, 44 percent admitted that their phone “has everything they need to remember or know.”

However, recalling important details is not the only concern. Many Americans have stated that they would be “devastated” if they lost data (such as photos) in their digital devices.

What you can do about it:

Aside from reducing the amount of time you spend on smartphones, consider old-school ways to remember things, such as planners, mnemonics, and sticky notes. Additionally, if you need to remember important information, resist the urge to check your phone right away. Instead, try to remember them first yourself.

It can make it difficult to sleep

How can smartphones affect your health? Research indicates that it can lead to sleep deprivation.

One study showed that people who use their digital devices right before bed have more difficulty falling asleep. However, the connection does not end there. The study also revealed that people who stay connected to their phones before bed experience decreased sleep quality and find it difficult to stay asleep through the night.

It’s all part of a vicious cycle: the more anxious a person is in bed, the more likely they are to mess with their smartphone. As a result, they do not get enough rest. Scientists believe that the blue light emitted from phone screens contributes to a person’s inability to sleep. Blue light can reduce melatonin, an important hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle.

What you can do about it:

Scientists suggest leaving your phone at least 30 minutes before bed. It will also help you keep your phone somewhere that you can’t reach directly from your bed.

It causes traffic accidents

One of the most troubling ways in which smartphones affect our health is their ability to distract people while driving.

In the United States, 1.6 million accidents occur annually due to mobile phone use while driving. Here in the Philippines, the National Statistics Office (NSO), in its 2015 report, stated that mobile phone use while driving is one of the top leading causes of traffic accidents.

According to studies, the risk of traffic accidents increases 3 to 4 times when a driver uses his phone while driving.

What you can do about it:

When driving, have someone else hold your phone or put it inside your bag (which should remain in the back seat area). If you really want to check your phone, stop in a safe place. You can also place your phone on a stand and set it on speakerphone mode if you’re using it to get around.

It can lead to anxiety and depression

As for mental health concerns, smartphones have been linked to anxiety — and not just because of the negative headlines we see online. Smartphones can also lead to anxiety when users realize they have lost their phone, have run out of credit, or have no network coverage. Several researchers have even done studies on the phobia, which basically means “no mobile phone phobia”.

At this point, you might be wondering: If smartphones can cause anxiety, can they cause depression, too?

Well, it turns out they can. One cross-sectional study concluded that there is a “worrisome” positive relationship between smartphone addiction and depression. In this case, smartphone addiction was defined as obsessive and intense use of a smartphone over long periods of time, causing interference with life activities, withdrawal symptoms, and/or agitation upon removal of the smartphone.

What you can do about it:

A digital detox can do wonders for your mental health. You can also unfollow accounts and profiles that post titles and/or content that you find disturbing.

It can affect you physically

Let’s not forget how smartphones can affect your physical health.

One obvious danger is pathogens on the surfaces of your smartphone. Since you bring your phone with you almost everywhere, it’s no surprise that it can harbor disease-causing bacteria and viruses on your screen and other high-touch surfaces.

Doctors also warn the public about “text neck” and “trigger thumb.” These stem from poor posture and overuse of hand muscles while using a smartphone. Of course, there is also eye strain from staring at a screen.

What you can do about it:

Clean your phone frequently with disinfectant wipes to avoid the spread of pathogens.

Meanwhile, the best way to prevent texting thumbs and neck is to reduce the amount of time you spend on your phone. If you need to use your smartphone for a long time, take a quick break every 30 to 45 minutes.

As many experts repeat, smartphones have been here forever. The only way we can prevent the negative effects of these devices is to manage the time we spend on our smartphones and use them purposefully.

For more clinically reviewed content by Filipino doctors, visit Hello Doctor PH at http://www.hellodoctor.com.ph/

Image credits: Eren Li/Pexels