Digitalization and health - does the digitalization harm our body?

Published on: 20 Apr 14:55

The last article was about digitalization and its consequences on our psychical health. This article is also about digitalization and its effects but on our physical health. We all know the picture showing the evolution of the human, starting on all fourth as a great ape, evolving into an upright walking homo sapiens and ending as a bent double humpback in front of a screen. This sitting posture is often chosen by people working or playing with the computer and leads to back and neck problems. But also the eyes are affected by starring at the screen, the thumb gets infected by doing unusual movements and electromagnetic radiaton coming from smartphones and wifi is supposed to be carcinogenic. But how accurate are those presumptions? Does the digitalization really harm our health?

Jesper Aggergaard

Shortsightedness and dryness

Smartphone, tablet, notebook, television…our eyes are steadily exposed to screens. When we stare at them with lots of concentration, we only blink 4x per minute instead of 10x. This irritates and dries the eyes. Eye-drops and and conscious blinking or eye closing can help.

Besides, the texts we read on the screens are often very small. That’s why we are holding them close to our face, making our eyes read from a very short distance. This can lead to an elongation of the eyeball (up to 30 years of age), also known as myopia. But not only the digitalization is responsible for the increasing number of people with myopia. According to a study, there is a connection between spectacle wearers and a high level of education, probably caused by reading lots of books. Myopia can be avoided by spending time outdoors and gazing into the distance regularly. Following the 20-20-20 rule helps to prevent any impacts on our eyesight: taking a 20-second break from the screen every 20 minutes and looking at something 20 feet away.

In addition, blue light is very harmful for our retina. It is part of LEDs which can be found in screens, lamps, headlights, UV radiation, etc. Blue light causes oxidative stress in our cells and can lead to their death, which will, in consequence, downgrade our eyesight. Antioxidants can help to prevent this kind of stress and can be found in the following supplements and food:

•Astaxanthin

•OPC

•Aronia juice

•Barley grass

•Moringa

•Curcumin

Furthermore, a bright ambient light makes the pupils stay small. If the room is dark and only the screen is shining, our pupils will be wide open and absorb a lot of blue light. Another method is, to use apps or screens filtering the blue light. It also helps to prevent insomnia because blue light stunts the production of melatonin, a hormone helping us to get sleepy in the evening.

The digitalization is actually harmful for our eyes. 68% of the Generation Y have problems with their eyes and almost every second child is shortsighted. For protecting our eyes, we should avoid to expose them more than 3h daily to screens, otherwise they’ll get tired and dry and our body will react with headache and the feeling of dizziness. People, who are working more than the recommended amount of time on a computer, should use a pair of computer glasses to relieve the eyes. Being outside in the daylight also contributes to a healthy development of our eyes.

Back and neck problems

Nowadays, back pain is one of the most common problems and pharmacies sell lots of heat cushions. Especially the lower back is affected, mainly due to a lack of exercise and strengthening as well as sitting for a long time and incorrect postures. We tend to lounge in front of the computer and to stretch our neck forward in order to see the screen better. But then we complain about tensions in the back and the shoulders. So what should we do? Well, the correct height of the chair and desk are as important as the optimal distance from the arms to the keyboard and the correct height and incline of the screen. The legs should be in a 90 degree angle, the feet should stand parallel on the floor, the spine should be straight and the weight should be distributed evenly on both buttocks. In addition, the arms should be in a 95 degree angle and should rest in a relaxed manner on the table or the keyboard, the elbows close to the body and the screen should be in a 5-30 degree angle and in eye level. That’s the correct upright sitting posture, supposedly preventing back problems. But not, if we sit like this for hours! Our back needs to exercise and cannot remain in one position for a long time. That’s why it is really important to take several breaks during work for standing up, walking or stretching a little bit and sit down again. It also helps to switch the sitting posture from time to time – even lounging sometimes is better than sitting upright without any change. The same applies to the neck: regular exercices and movement can prevent tensions and can be done subtly and quickly at the workplace.

Ergonomic workplace (Samule Sun)

Gamer’s thumb and RSI syndrome

Scrolling and clicking on the smartphone with our thumbs makes them ill, because they are not made for this one-way movement and react with irritation and, in the worst case, an inflammation of the fluid-filled sheath, called tenosynovitis or gamer’s thumb. Another illness is the repetitive strain injury caused by using the computer mouse repetitively and affecting the neck, the shoulders, the arm and hands. For preventing both injuries it is important to do stretching exercices, to switch hands or fingers, to take breaks and so on. It is also possible to buy an ergonomic keyboard or computer mouse for prevention and recovery.

Wifi radiation and mutated cress

The impact of radiation on our body is an aspect that is always discussed and investigated. So far, there haven’t been any scientific evidences or findings yet. Nevertheless, two girls made an experiment with cress. They put two boxes of cress into two almost identic rooms, one of them being exposed to the radiation of a WLAN router. After two weeks of regular and equal irrigation, one cress was green and lush while the other one was brown and mutated. When the latter can happen to a box of cress in between two weeks of being exposed to radiation, what damage will a human being suffer from after years of living in a home with wifi? In 2011, the WHO declared electromagnetic waves as possibly carcinogenic. Smartphones and WLAN emit this kind of radiation. In 2015, it was proven that this electromagnetic radiation influences our brain waves. However, it is not known yet if it has also an impact on our blood circulation of the brain and on the sperm quality, as it is always claimed. It could only be proven that the radiation warms up the tissues in our body, though it is not known how harming this can be. Also long-term damages haven’t been identified yet, because the technology is still too young. But even if the radiation is not harming our health, it’s better not to take the risk and to prevent instead. For example, it is recommended to put the WLAN router in room that are not frequented and to turn it off during the night. It is even better to use LAN cables instead of a WLAN router, though they restrict the flexibility and can’t be connected to smartphones. Other than that, electronic divices should not be in direct contact with the body and phone calls should rather be made by using a headset.

In conclusion, the digitalization might harm our health if we don’t use electronic divices responsibly. Prevention, exercising, breaks and the right sitting posture are necessary for not getting harmed. According to the proverb “prevention is better than cure”!