Is Your Smartphone Harming Your Health? How the BYOD Movement is Taking Years off Your Life

June 08, 2012
By: Carrie Schmelkin

Here are a few questions. Do you have your work email synched to your smartphone? Do you sleep with your cell phone next to your bed? Do you frenetically check and answer work emails all throughout the week, including after hours and on the weekend? And are you one of the many who goes so far as to whip out your tablet on weekends so that you can squeeze in a few hours of work in between your son’s basketball game and daughter’s ballet recital?

If so, you join the millions of other people around the world who have become slaves to their jobs, largely because of the advent of things like smartphones and BYOD (bring your own device).

One of the greatest blessings has become the biggest curse because our smartphone has given us the ability to work from home –or anywhere really – which means that we never get a chance to power down and reboot. And if we are not rebooting, what on earth are we doing to our health?

Terrible things, according to recent studies.

In fact, a recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that people who work more than 55 hours a week score lower on vocabulary and reasoning tests than people who work normal 40-hour weeks. In fact, working late was so tough on mental abilities that, the authors write, “the difference in aspects of cognitive functioning between employees working long hours and those working normal hours is similar in magnitude to that of smoking, a risk factor for dementia which has been found to affect cognition.”

Unfortunately, not only are people working 55-hour weeks, but most are working well past that. In fact, in many fields it is not uncommon for someone to work 9 to 5, then attend a night meeting from 7 to 9, then come home and finish catching up on emails until 10, and then start the whole thing over the next morning. So where does one fit in time for a nice home cooked meal, exercise or spending time with loved ones? Virtually never.

Being able to work remotely and on the go has made it nearly impossible to do things that keep one healthy and happy such as family dinners and TV nights as the phone is always on, blinking when you miss an email and chirping when an important notice arrives. Moreover, who has time to cook when you are essentially taking your work home with you?

This year, a PLoS ONE journal study revealed that people who work 11 or more hours a day are two times more likely to develop severe depression, as compared with someone who works a standard seven- or eight-hour day. Researchers from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and University College London studied the health and work data from 2,000 middle-aged Brits over a six-year period, and saw that there was a definite correlation between overtime hours worked and depression risk.

"Although occasionally working overtime may have benefits for the individual and society, it is important to recognize that working excessive hours is also associated with an increased risk of major depression," study researcher Dr. Marianna Virtanen, of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, said.

So what are some quick tips to help you decompress and step away from the terror that has become your smartphone?

So before we all break for the weekend, do yourself a favor. Turn off the smartphone at 9. You’ll thank me later.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey