13 ways your mobile phone affects your body and mind

We rely on our smartphones a lot. And because of that, they could be hurting our health.

1. It can keep you safe
First, some good news. Your phone can keep you safer.

A study in the Journal of Emergency Medicine that analysed emergency dispatches over an 11-year period revealed that 137 more lives were saved per 100,000 patients when people called emergency services from a mobile phone rather than from a landline.

They can be pretty handy in a pinch. The mobile phone can also be a bane, both to yourself and others. Take a look at the 10 mobile phone etiquette rules you should be following – but aren’t.

2. It messes with your sleep
But there are plenty of concerns too. Scanning your phone right before bed can disturb your slumber.

The short-wavelength, bright blue light your device emits boosts your attention during the day, but at night the light can inhibit the production
of melatonin, which helps you fall asleep.

To avoid that, make a habit of not using your phone for at least 30 minutes before you close your eyes.

There’s no blanket solution for insomnia. But if you’ve tried everything, here may be the bedroom secret that helps you reclaim your night-time rest.

3. It keeps you from focusing
When you are awake, a single buzz signalling a new notification on your phone can weaken your ability to focus on a task, researchers at Florida State University have found.

Switch your phone to “do not disturb” mode to remove the distraction.
 
From charging the battery faster to taking a hands-free photo, these are the secret iPhone hacks you wish you knew about sooner.

4. Put it aside
Putting your phone aside when you’re alone – rather than taking it out to play games­ – can help inspire creative ideas.

“When you’re bored, four different areas of your brain activate and work together to pull in random thoughts and combine them in unique ways,” says psychologist Larry Rosen, author of The Distracted Mind.

Looking for brain training games? Try these games that tap your innate genius to build a happy and resilient brain.

5. It makes you achy
People now spend more than five hours a day swiping, typing and tapping – and feeling achy because of it all.

“Selfie elbow” is a strain injury caused by holding your elbow at an extreme angle, and roughly 85,000 people a month search for “texting thumb” and similar terms on Google.

Love posting selfies on your favourite social media site? Follow our expert tips to avert your ownFacebook faux pas and improve your social media encounters.

6. They’re dirty
Most mobile phones are crawling with germs – ten times what you would find on most toilets, says University of Arizona microbiologist Charles Gerba. Wipe your phone down daily with a gadget-friendly antibacterial wipe or a microfibre cloth.

It’s time you start washing your phone as often as you wash your hands.

7. It can help you diet
That said, your phone can help you be healthier. In a study of overweight volunteers, those who used a smartphone app to record their food intake were much more diligent than those who used a paper diary or a weight-loss ­website – and they lost almost twice as much weight.

Stuck in a weight-loss plateau? These surprising factors may be preventing you from reaching your goal weight.

8. Risk of cancer is low
Radiation exposure, long thought to be a risk for heavy-duty phone users, is probably not a significant concern.Smartphones do emit radiation, but most scientific evidence has not linked the use of a mobile phone to cancer.

One draft study found that exposing male lab rats to the highest levels allowed for mobile phones was linked to one type of rare tumour in the tissues surrounding nerves in the heart.

If you’re worried, use earbuds or a headset when you talk on your phone.

9. Maps are better for you than a GPS
Navigating by consulting a map and trying to remember it may be better for your brain than passively relying on step-by-step instructions from your phone’s GPS.

Researchers found that older adults who chose the more active approach increased activity in the hippo­campus, a part of the brain important for memory.

10. It hinders your memory
Snapping a pic with your smartphone may also hinder your memory. On a test after a visit to an art museum, students were less likely to remember objects they had taken photos of.

“As soon as you hit ‘click’ on that camera, it’s as if you’ve outsourced your memory,” says psychologist Linda Henkel.

11. It hurts your eyes
Your phone can do a number on your eyes.

A study in the US found that about 60 percent of respondents experience digital eye strain symptoms such as dryness, irritation, blurred vision, eye fatigue and headaches.

Try blinking often, increasing font size and taking a break from screens every 20 minutes.

12. It can be a hazard when walking
We all know that walking around town with your face 

in your phone can be dangerous, and there are studies that underline the point.

City pedestrians using their phones looked left and right less often and were more likely to be hit by a vehicle, according to a review of studies on distracted walking in the Journal of Traffic and Transportation Engineering. 

In another small experiment, 94 percent of pedestrians who were using mobile phones to talk and text didn’t see free cash hanging from
a tree. (That’s right, they walked right by a bunch of dollar bills.)

13. It’s not easy to put down
It would be easy to avoid all these maladies by simply putting down your phone. The problem: it isn’t so easy.

That twinge of phone separation anxiety is real. In fact, Rosen says, detaching from your phone can cause your brain to release the stress hormone cortisol.

Of course, there are many phone apps (with calming names, such as Forest and Mute) to help you control your phone addiction. Or you can just let the battery run down and forget about it!

This article appeared on Reader's Digest