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Moderation is key to avoiding addiction to mobile devices

According to a new study presented at ENDO 2022 (the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting), encouraging moderation, balance, and real-life engagement may help combat the overuse of wireless mobile devices, such as cell phones or tablets, and the subsequent adverse health effects such behaviors cause.

By reviewing existing data on the neuroscience underlying addiction to mobile devices, Dr. Nidhi Gupta – the founder of KAP Pediatric Endocrinology in Franklin, Tennessee – has discovered that extensive screen time increases the prevalence of obesity, dyslipidemia, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes. This study is an extension of Dr. Gupta’s previous research, in which she examined the role of mobile devices overuse in health care settings, and found that devices such as smartphones or tablets are often a source of distraction, errors, procrastination, and inefficiency for clinicians, often leading to an increased risk of burnout.

In the new study investigating the impact of mobile devices overuse on the general population, Dr. Gupta has found that each hour per day increase in screen time was correlated with a 0.05 to 0.07 increase in body mass index (BMI), most likely caused by online food marketing, distracted eating, and procrastination of physical activities. Moreover, sleep disturbances, daytime tiredness, depression, the odds of using illegal substances, and various cognitive and behavioral issues were also linked to the overuse of mobile devices.

“As a pediatric endocrinologist, the trend in smartphone-associated health disorders (obesity, sleep, and behavior issues) worries me. I often get asked by my patients, ‘What can we do about the screen time?’ A simple but loaded question. It opens multiple avenues to educate and inspire my patients and their families,” Dr. Gupta explained.  

In order to reduce screen time, Dr. Gupta recommended turning off excessive notifications, deleting social media apps, using traditional alarm clocks, promoting “green time” instead of screen time, and closely supervising children’s use of wireless mobile devices. 

In the case of clinicians, wearing a wristwatch instead of relying on mobile devices as timekeepers, setting boundaries for checking emails, decreasing reliance on text messages, and placing devices in a drawer for 30-minute intervals to work without distractions could significantly boost productivity and safeguard against a wide range of health issues linked to mobile devices overuse.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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