Wake Up Call: Science Says Our Phones are Shortening Our Lives

Modern medicine is a bit of a miracle. Not interested in eating all your veggies? Take a fiber supplement and probably a statin to keep things in check. Don’t like to exercise? A blood pressure pill can do wonders. But to date, there’s no perfect little pill to undo the toxic physical and neurological effects of a digital heavy lifestyle.

“According to recent research, the average adult now spends four hours a day staring at their smartphone, keeping it within arm’s reach almost all of the time,” writes Sam Upton in Two Sides NA. “That amount of time spent with a device interferes with an alarming range of life elements and cognitive skills, from sleep time and quality of relationships to short- and long-term memory, attention span, creativity, productivity, and problemsolving and decisionmaking abilities.”

Okay, we’ve all heard this kind of thing before … we can’t concentrate like we used to, we have the attention span of goldfish, we close our eyes to go to sleep and see Candy Crush running behind our eyelids … but it’s much more than that, Upton notes.

“… while these are troubling in their own right, what should be worrying the average phone user is the fact that using the device raises the levels of cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone. Cortisol is the hormone that controls the fight-or-flight reaction, triggering psychological changes that help the human body react and survive dangerous threats,” he explains.

In short, our phone addictions are literally shortening our life expectancy. And it’s happening when it’s just resting nearby, even when we aren’t actually using it.

“Unfortunately for the phone fan, these changes include rapid increases in blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar – none of which are good for the body, especially when they can happen every time your phone makes you angry or frustrated, happy or excited – the exact emotional triggers that makes your phone so compelling,” Upton continues.

“Beyond these well-documented side effects of our pocket pals, there’s an organic change happening in our bodies, as smartphone usage has been shown to increase the stress hormone cortisol in our bloodstream,” according to Magazine Media research.

“Cortisol is the hormone that controls our fight or flight response so that we can survive in dangerous situations. This also results in increased blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar, all not good for the body,” the article notes. “Especially when this happens every time in response to your mobile, every time you get angry, frustrated, enthusiastic or happy about the thing.”

If there’s no pill to counter this, there are some easy lifestyle fixes you can make.

“Neurological studies have shown that brain activity when reading print is significantly different to when reading from a screen. When reading digital content, the brain skims across the copy, only taking in key words or highlighted or bold text. But reading in print stimulates visual memory, improving understanding, retention and retrieval of information,” Upton explains.

Beyond that, it relaxes our central nervous system, helping us unwind from the digital frenzy, and promotes healthier, quality sleep.

“In a groundbreaking study, Harvard Medical School asked 12 students to spend two weeks reading an e-book before bed, then two weeks reading a print book,” Upton notes. “The study showed that reading an e-book resulted in less sleep and increased tiredness the next day.”

Healthy sleep is crucial to moderating stress and helping our bodies deal with our stressful and often frantic lives. Turning off your phone and reading a print book before bed can improve our well-being … and it’s a whole lot more fun than popping another pill.