Moderation may disrupt addictive nature of wireless mobile devices and adverse health outcomes
Encouraging moderation, balance and real-life engagement coupled with education may combat the overuse of wireless mobile devices and subsequent adverse health outcomes, according to research being presented Sunday at ENDO 2022, the Endocrine Society's annual meeting in Atlanta, Ga.
Nidhi Gupta, M.D., founder of KAP Pediatric Endocrinology in Franklin, Tenn., aimed to review existing data on the neuroscience underlying wireless mobile device addiction, and understand how increased screen time or a sedentary lifestyle can increase the prevalence of obesity, dyslipidemia, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
In a previous article, published in the American Journal of Medicine in February 2022, Gupta concluded that wireless mobile devices such as cell phones and tablets are often a source of distraction, errors, procrastination and inefficiency in health care settings, which can lead to an increased risk of burnout. For this study, Gupta investigated how this might impact the greater population.
"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," Gupta said.
Gupta completed a comprehensive literature search using the terms, "smartphone," "screentime," and "phone addiction," in PubMed and Google Scholar until May 2021. She included original research papers and review articles based on sample size, trial design and citations from journals. Books, case studies, news articles, webpages and perspectives were also collected. Of 655 citations initially pooled, 234 were included.
For each hour/day increase in screen time, Gupta found a 0.05-0.07 increase in BMI (p<0.001), which was likely due to food marketing, distracted eating, reduced satiety and procrastination of physical activity. Insufficient and low-quality sleep, daytime tiredness, daytime sleepiness, depression and daily cognitive issues, were associated with wireless mobile device overuse.
Using interactive devices at bedtime resulted in greater difficulty falling asleep and unrefreshing sleep (p<0.05). The odds of using illegal substances were higher among those who were especially young at the time of their initial exposure to wireless mobile devices.
To reduce screen time, Gupta recommends turning off excessive notifications, red badges, deleting social media apps, and instead, accessing social media via web browsers. Other tips include: Using a traditional alarm clock, promoting "green time" vs. screen time, and supervising children's wireless mobile device use. Clinicians might consider wearing a wristwatch instead of using a wireless mobile device as a timekeeper, setting boundaries for checking emails, decreasing reliance on text messages, and placing wireless mobile devices in a drawer for 30-minute intervals to work without distractions.