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Is smartphone use a risk to the health of young workers?

Texting and browsing the internet on your smartphone can lead to short-term MSD problems in young people

Young workers may be putting their health at risk by overusing their smartphones and are at an increasing risk of acquiring musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), say experts.

Katherine Metters, a senior consultant at Posturite, an ergonomics consultancy, suggested that companies need to do more to change the way workers use their laptops and smartphones in order to reduce the chances of them developing MSDs. She added that it was younger workers who were at the most risk, as they were less interested in the long-term health implications of using a smartphone incorrectly.

According to a study published by theUniversity of Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2017, texting and browsing the internet on your smartphone can lead to short-term MSD problems in young people, as well as longer-term MSD issues around the upper body and neck areas.

Britain’s Health and Safety Executive put the number of working days lost due to MSDs throughout 2016/17 at 8.9 million. This means that 17.9 days are lost for every case of MSD reported – at a huge cost to the UK’s economy.

According to Metters, people only seek help and change their behaviour when experiencing discomfort from an MSD, but then often return to bad habits once the discomfort disappears. She believes that there needs to be a complete change in workplace culture, so that workers know about the risks of MSDs and are encouraged to alter the way that they use their mobile phones. Too many workplaces are dismissive of people who take time off to move and stretch while at work, Metters says.

She also highlighted the dangers of using portable devices on a daily commute. Metters added that the damage that workers are doing to themselves on a daily basis by being hunched over their phones will cause years of possible chronic problems and suffering later on in life.

Earlier in 2018, a survey by Thumbtel revealed that 60% of workers between the ages of 25 and 34 had “smartphone fatigue” due to the fact that they felt unable to disconnect completely from work while away from the office.

An additional survey carried out by Specsavers found that only 25% of employers are currently offering eye care for their staff who used smartphones. This comes despite the use of smartphones being included in the UK’s Display Screen Equipment regulations.

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