Is technology making us sick?

Regardless of whether you speak to a doctor of the body or of the mind, the simple answer to this question is YES!

Psychologists are noting an alarming increase in patients with a new phobia dubbed “nomophobia”, a derivative of the words “no mobile phobia”.  Symptoms such as anxiety and distraction occur when people affected are separated from their cell phones and therefore can’t check for messages or updates.  The condition has been likened to a gambling addiction.

Of course the majority of people are able to spend an afternoon with their families and not be continuously connected, but there are other ways we are being negatively affected by technology without ever acknowledging the cause of the problem.

Blue screen pollution

Most jobs require a significant amount of screen time.  While we congratulate ourselves on being such hard workers, our bodies are begging for a break.  The consistent glare of a computer screen can cause a number of health problems that range from blurred vision to headaches to insomnia.  We pop a few pills and blame it on stress.

Within minutes we are online researching cheap holiday destinations.  A few hours later and way past “lights out”, exhaustion sets in so we shut down our laptops and then spend hours lying awake instead of dreaming about that holiday.

Again, we’ll blame stress, but actually it could just be because the blue light from most device screens causes a decrease in melatonin, a substance we need to fall asleep.  Unfortunately, lack of sleep doesn’t just make us tired and unable to function properly, it could even lead to a premature death.

Another pain that doctors are treating more of these days is back pain caused by bad posture.  Laptops and cell phones are so small that we can quite literally sit or lie in any position we like to use them.  Usually the angle at which we find ourselves is relative to the proximity of the charger!

The physical hazards of technology

It would seem that we are so desperate to stay in touch with what is happening virtually, that new technology induced conditions need to be treated such as the less-imaginatively named repetitive strain injuries like “cell-phone elbow” and “texting thumb”.  Yet, how many people with these injuries would stop using their cell phones at unnatural angles to respond to emails or send fewer messages? The answer is probably very few.

Making technology work for us

While technology certainly is making us a lot less healthy, it is also used in incredible ways to advance medicine and save lives.  It’s one of those “can’t live with it, can’t live without it” anomalies that humans have created for themselves.

What we can do though, is be aware of our online habits and change them if we need to.

  • Put your phone down when you can for a few hours.
  • Dim the screen on your laptop if you’re using it before bed, or better yet, switch it off and read a book an hour before going to sleep.
  • Set rules for yourself (and your family if necessary) – for example, no technology at mealtimes and that also means no eating lunch at your desk.  If it’s a business lunch then the first person to use their mobile device, pays.
  • Set an alarm every couple of hours that will remind you to get up and walk over to the window, stretch, admire the real world and just acknowledge the state of your health for a few minutes.

Technology and our health

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