Should you be conscious of your screen time?

Yes, you probably should.

It is seemingly impossible not to spend the entire day in front of a screen in our day and age. Whether it’s your computer, television or phone, screen-based devices are influencing our lives in a staggering number of ways, not all of which are positive.

Impact on physical health

Most are aware of the negative impact of screen time on your eye health and sleep, and these have been long documented in scientific literature.
The results of a 2021 Japanese study published in the world-renowned BMC Public Health Journal on the impacts of screen time on elementary school children is shocking. A “significant association” was observed between screen time duration and various physical health factors. The study on a group of 7419 children in Tokyo showed that increased screen time led to decreased overall physical activity, increased rates of obesity and decreased academic performance. Furthermore, screen time before bed led to an increased chance of developing dry eye disease. The researchers concluded that the timing of your screen time, not just the duration, can play a significant role in the overall well-being of children. Perhaps, the most simple and key takeaway from this study is to limit the use of electronic devices immediately before bed. Not only can this affect the health of your eyes, but it also disrupts your sleep patterns. The topic of sleep frequently appears in our posts (in fact, we have an entire section on our blog dedicated to it!) as getting a full night’s sleep is one of the simplest ways to ensure your physical health is in check and you are at your peak productivity. Click here if you would like to read more on our blog!

When engaged in work or entertainment on our devices, we are often in sitting or lying positions, which raises a huge concern for one’s overall health. The rise in sedentary lifestyles in the population, particularly among young people, is worrying and can have disastrous consequences on cardiovascular health particularly. One review summarises the issue very effectively: “screen time and sitting time has shown that greater sedentary time is associated with an increased risk of fatal and non-fatal CVD” (cardiovascular disease).

Impact on mental health

The impact of screen time on mental health is often overlooked but equally as important as the impact on your physical health. Since the pandemic began, our screen time has risen exponentially. Whether you’re working or studying from home, you’re probably spending a handful of hours staring at your laptop screen. After work, we often turn to more digital sources of entertainment, such as television or gaming. It is safe to say many of us are spending the entire day looking at screens, and the impact of this can be paramount.

Young people are more vulnerable to mental effects caused by time spent online than other groups. A 2019 study (also published in the BMC) showed that screen-time-based sedentary lifestyles are associated with a higher risk of depression than those who lead less sedentary-based lifestyles. The prevalence of negative effects social media may have on young adults has been previously documented. These are likely to have increased over the last few years due to prolonged lockdowns and increased time online.

How to reduce your screen time

It may be difficult for many to reduce their overall screen time in the short term as most of us rely on our devices for work and studies. However, there are steps that you can take to ensure your health isn’t being negatively affected.

Standing desks are a great way to reduce your sedentary time and have grown rapidly in popularity in recent years, both in offices and homes. Taking breaks from screen time by going for a walk or engaging in regular physical exercise can be just as beneficial for your mental health as it is for your physical health. You can also reduce the amount of screen time you get during your downtime. Make more time for your hobbies, or find some new ones. If you need to read something, why not print it out? Studies have shown that reading from a printed page is quicker than from a screen, and retaining information is better too!

Author of the publication

Alexandra Bougrova
Alexandra Bougrova
Senior editor
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