| 5 min read
Feeling Wonky? You Might Be Coming Down With Smartphone Sickness
Dr Ashwini Setya
“Q: Do I have a smart phone?
A: No, it has me!”
A: No, it has me!”
That pretty much sums up the current scenario.
So it’s no surprise if suddenly scrolling through your cell phone makes you feel sick in the stomach. Don’t blame the ridiculously sinful chocolate cake you just ‘liked’ on your newsfeed, because the technology-generated mayhem can make you feel woozy. Maybe a dull headache, dizziness or creeping nausea- these are just some of the peculiar side-effects of spending too much time on WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, or whatever the cool kids are hooked on to these days.
Is Your Smartphone Making You Sick?
Mobile phones are ubiquitous; it is not surprising that more than a billion mobile phones are being used in India today, translating into a population penetration of close to 80 % (Photo: iStock altered by The Quint)
Cell phones emit radiofrequency energy (radio waves), a form of electromagnetic non-ionizing radiation, which is absorbed by the tissues closest to them. The dose of the absorbed energy is expressed as specific absorption rate (SAR), in watts per kilogram of body weight.
Exposure to ionizing radiation (like in X-rays), increases the risk of cancer. But so far, the only consistently recognized biological effect of radiofrequency energy is heating, which is what we utilize in microwave ovens.
Can Your Smartphone Cause Cancer?
Cancer is one word that spells doom. In reality, we are in a very grey zone with evidence on this claim.
Several studies with conflicting results (depending on who has funded them) notwithstanding, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an organ of the WHO, classified cell phone use as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”.
Though several other expert bodies on cancer, in cleverly worded statements, have indicated that more studies over longer periods are required before the issue can be decided one way or the other.
Your Phone Slows Down Your Reflexes
When young adults use cell phones while driving, they’re as bad as sleepy septuagenarians! True story (Photo: iStock)
A study published in the medical journal Human Factors, confirms that the reaction time of cell phone users slows dramatically. When you are texting your reaction time is found to be 23 percent longer in emergency situations. Mobile phones diminish the ability to focus. No wonder road accident rates have shot up.
If you put a 20-year-old driver behind the wheel with a cell phone, their reaction times are the same as a 70-year-old driver who is not using a cell phone. It’s like instantly aging a large number of drivers.
Professor David Strayer, Co-author, University of Utah
Your Phone is a Germ Hotspot
A recent study done by Harvard University found that 25% phones have trace-able fecal matter on them.Eeeeewww! (Photo: iStock altered by The Quint)
Your phone goes with you everywhere, gets set on dirty counters, tables, dropped who-knows-where, and everything your fingers touch goes on your screen. A 2012 Purdue University investigation found cell phones had 10 times more bacteria than a toilet seat! YIKES.
In other words, your phone is getting bombarded with germs every time it’s used. So, knowing that ... how often do you disinfect your phone? Have you ever?
Not surprising, considering no one gets off the toilet seat till they pass another level of Candy Crush!
Related Read: 7 Ways Your Smartphone is Ruining Your Health
It Could Be Ruining Your Children
Your child shouldn’t have to WhatsApp his neighbourhood friends from the sofa. They have door bells for that. (Photo: iStock altered by The Quint)
A large-scale study done on almost one lakh mothers and 30,000 children reveals that women who regularly expose their children to cellphone radiation, both while pregnant and after birth, are 50% more likely to have children with behavioural problems.
The sheer number of participants in this study are a hell of a lot to write-off to coincidence.
And Giving You a Digital Eye
Unlike reading from a printed page, it’s harder for your eyes to focus on a digital screen because the letters aren’t as sharp, there’s less contrast between the backlit letters and background, and you’re up against glare and reflections.
The problem is more with kids.
Staring at the glowing digital display (PC, laptop, tab or smartphones) for a long time is unnatural for your eyes. And small prints and blurry images strain your eye muscle more. In a minute, you blink around 18 times and that drops to 6-7 times when you are hooked on to your gadget
Smartphones In Pregnancy
Excessive usage of cell phones during pregnancy could slow down the rate of brain development of the foetus or may lead to hyperactivity and cause other behavioural disorders in the unborn child. Also, radiations emitted by mobile phones can lead to miscarriage as also increased incidence of congenital anomalies.
And while all these health issues exist, still a staggering 33% phone users would rather give up sex than give up their cellphone.
Yeah, let that sink in.
(Dr Ashwini Setya is a Gastroenterologist and Programme Director in Delhi’s Max Super Speciality Hospital. His endeavour is to help people lead a healthy life without medication. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)