Too Much Screen Time: Mental and Physical Impacts

From smartphones, to tablets, to computers and TV’s – it’s no secret that a lot of us spend too much time glued to a screen. While technology has come a long way over the years, and brings with it plenty of benefits, we can’t help but wonder about all of the possible negative effects it brings with it.

Research suggests that too much screen time impacts both your physical and mental well-being and is associated with everything from a higher likeliness of developing cancer to an increased risk of depression. For those who sit behind a computer all day, managing screen time can be an even bigger challenge, which is why excessive screen time is becoming one of the 21st century’s most prominent professional hazards.
To reduce the negative impacts of a digital-heavy lifestyle we have the option of limiting our leisure screen time, however, minimising work-related screen time can be a little more difficult. Here’s a look at the mental and physical effects of excessive screen time and what can be done in the workplace to help protect your employees’ health.

What are the mental impacts of too much screen time?

A study published in the Journal of Preventative Medicine found that people who spend more than six hours a day looking at a screen are more likely to suffer from depression. Not only that, but Brain Scan Research has found that excessive exposure can lead to shrinkage of the brain’s grey matter, affecting areas like the frontal lobe, which deals with planning and accomplishing tasks, as well as the insula, the area of the brain that deals with someone’s capacity for empathy and compassion.

There are many steps that can be taken to encourage a work environment that helps to combat the mental effects of screen time.

  • Adding more greenery and natural light to the work environment can help to lift moods and reduce stress.
  • Reduce notifications from work outside of work hours. Pings and notifications can distract employees and encourage them to get on their phones outside of work.
  • It’s also helpful to proactively encourage group bonding to nurture empathy and compassion.

What are the physical impacts of too much screen time?

Researchers from the University of Glasgow found a link between high levels of screen time and a higher risk of developing cancer and heart disease. Studies are showing that excessive exposure often goes hand in hand with unhealthy habits like minimal levels of physical activity, a sedentary lifestyle, poor sleeping habits, and unhealthy eating habits.

Too much screen time can also contribute to tech neck, an overuse syndrome associated with neck and shoulder pain. When someone moves their head forward by as little as one inch, like they do when looking at a phone or tablet, the weight of the head increases sixfold – putting a huge amount of pressure on the upper spine. This can contribute to strain, pain in the shoulders and neck, and headaches.

To create a healthier workplace, you can encourage employees and co-workers to get more exercise and to form healthy eating habits. Providing healthy snacks at work and promoting regular breaks in which workers can go for a walk outdoors or spend a few minutes stretching helps to combat the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle, such as obesity and an increased risk for heart disease.

Making sure employees have an ergonomically correct workstation with the right chair and desktop height can help prevent tech neck and back and shoulder pain.

So, what is a safe amount of screen time?

A 2018 study found that adults spend more than 11 hours a day engaging with media, including nearly five hours a day watching television. From working at a laptop to checking social media, you could easily be spending most of your waking hours staring at a screen if you aren’t careful.

While some people combat digital overload with a digital detox – a designated time period with zero screens – what about daily use? How much screen time per day is safe?

Experts haven’t agreed on a set number. The general recommendation is to limit non-work screen time as much as you can. You can do this by keeping screens out of the bedroom to discourage watching television before bed, making meal times screen-free, and setting personal limits for social media use and texting. Applications which track and even limit your screen-time are also a big help.

Balancing screen time with wellness

For most people, there’s no escaping digital exposure. Nor does that have to be the goal. There are so many positive things that come from being able to tune in, do work, and connect through screens.

By taking a healthy approach to screen time, it’s possible to create an effective balance. Simple steps like adding more stress-relieving features to the work environment and making an effort to improve posture and sit correctly when engaging with screens, getting more exercise, and consciously limiting leisure-time device usage will help to minimise problems with screen time and promote a healthier lifestyle.

To learn more about cultivating a healthy modern work environment, contact Bodycare today.