According to recent surveys, roughly 77 percent of American adults currently own a smartphone. Of those smartphone owners, 46 percent say that they "couldn't live without" their devices.
In many ways, smartphones have drastically improved the average person's quality of life. Almost anyone can access the internet at a moment's notice, and people are more in communication with each other than ever before, despite far distances and different time zones.
However, to assume that most people have a healthy relationship with smartphones would be ignorant. On a daily basis, the average smartphone user checks their device 47 times and spends approximately 2 hours and 51 minutes on their phone. Social media apps alone consume over an hour of the average user's time each day, and even though 47 percent of users have attempted to decrease their usage, only 30 percent feel they were successful in their attempts.
Smartphone addiction (or "nomophobia") is defined as having a fear of being without your phone. Despite what you may think, this addiction is all too real and experienced by a large percentage of Americans. Not only is it detrimental to social interactions and a person's overall lifestyle, but it's also potentially harmful to the average person's wellbeing.
Here are some of the biggest ways your constant interaction with your phone might be negatively impacting your health.
Blue light might be increasing your chances of developing several health concerns. If you're like most phone users, you check your messages and other apps sometime before you go to sleep. About 80 percent of smartphone users check their phone within an hour of going to bed, and 35 percent look at their screen within 5 minutes of going to sleep. The problem with this habit is that blue light (the kind of light your screen emits) suppresses the secretion of melatonin, which can mess with your body's circadian rhythm. To avoid causing problems with your sleep schedule, try not to look at your phone screen for at least two hours before going to bed. If you must, dim the light as much as possible and switch it to "night mode."
Smartphones are often covered in germs. Research conducted by the University of Arizona indicates that your cell phone may carry up to 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats. That means that the more you touch your phone, the more you're exposing your body to diseases like E. coli, streptococcus, MRSA and other viruses. You're especially at risk if you carry your phone with you to the bathroom and other dirty locations. Wash your hands several times a day and remember to cleanse your phone with an antibacterial wipe at least once a week to cut down on your exposure to illness.
Texting while distracted can put you at risk of bodily harm. We all know that texting and driving is extremely dangerous, but have you ever thought about how texting and walking can jeopardize your safety? Increasing numbers of pedestrian-related accidents involve the use of a cell phone, either on the driver's part or on that of the pedestrian.
You might start experiencing nerve pain and poor posture. Ever experienced a tingly, numb feeling in your hand after using a cell phone frequently? You might have overextended the nerve that extends underneath your funny bone and fingers. Constant cell phone use can stress out the ulnar nerves and cause blood to flow improperly, leading to nerve pain. Furthermore, bending over and looking at your screen from awkward angles can lead to neck and spine problems that are equally as uncomfortable and debilitating.
Excessive texting can cause inflamed tendons or even arthritis. Believe it or not, you might be texting your way to tendonitis. This problem occurs when the tendons that are attached to your hand and wrist become inflamed due to typing or other kinds of repetitive action. It's painful, which is probably why more than 70,000 people miss work every year due to tendonitis diagnoses. Excessive phone use can also contribute to the development of arthritis, which causes tenderness and pain at the base of the thumb.
Phone usage can cause eye-strain and vision problems. Have you experienced blurred vision, dry eyes or headaches after staring at a screen for too long? These symptoms can be the result of looking at a bright screen too closely. To protect your eyes while looking at your phone, take frequent breaks and take note when they start to feel fatigued. Make sure you're blinking enough to keep your eyes moist, and if necessary, invest in lenses that can protect your eyes from bright screens.
Smartphones are also tied to the deterioration of mental health. People often joke about developing FOMO (fear of missing out) while scrolling through their social media accounts and text messages, and although that might sound like a lighthearted joke, psychologists have found that frequent phone users are often increasingly prone to bouts of anxiety, depression, narcissism, and stress. Using your cell phone too much may also cause insomnia, which leads to further problems with mental health.
Do yourself and your body a favor: take a step away from the screen when you can and do your best to monitor your addiction. A smartphone is a big part of your life, but it shouldn't be the biggest part.