There's seemingly no escaping them. As smartphones play an increasingly irreplaceable role in people’s lives, medical professionals caution that spending too much time on phones can actually interfere with our physical and mental health.
Dr. Dana Corriel, director of quality for Highland Medical, P.C. and board-certified internist at Pearl River Internal Medicine, explains how to be smart about using smartphones.
Q: How can smartphones affect people’s health?
A: I think there’s a role for screens in people’s lives both in a professional setting and out. But too much screen time can lead to illnesses such as depression, anxiety and visual disturbances. There are social implications, as well, to overusing our smartphones. Socially speaking, we're engaged less with our friends and family, especially when it comes to face-to-face interactions. This leads to an increasingly isolated society that sees more failed relationships.
Q: How can smartphones decrease quality of life?
A: Smartphone use can potentially lead to screen-time addiction, in which the pull of the screen is more powerful than engaging in other activities. Examples of this are all around us, in places like restaurants, where a family sits around the dinner table but the children have their heads in a device, rather than connecting with the parents. Car rides can be the same, as can vacations. Often, the experience of getting away is lost when kids (or adults) engage with their device rather than their surroundings.
Q: How do you recommend that people break their smartphone addiction?
A: It’s important to take a step back and really be honest about the time you spend on a smartphone. Use a chart to plot out times. You may be surprised at what you find. You may need to abstain ‘cold turkey,’ or simply limit the time spent daily. We see the biggest improvements in people’s moods and sleep patterns when they stay away from smartphones. This abstinence can also lead to more time spent with loved ones, less procrastinations on projects in real life and more time spent being physical.
Q: Have you cut back on smartphone use yourself?
A: I am an advocate of doctors having a presence on social media. However, I also recognize the need to take healthy breaks, both regularly, and for set periods of time. I speak about my own ‘cleanse’ in my post, Virtual Break: A Cleanse for the Soul, where I suggest a healthy break from the virtual world.
Q: How would you sum up your thoughts about smartphones and their effect on our lives?
A: I believe we can find a healthy balance in our relationship with the smartphone. But we need to be smart about finding it, and especially when guiding our children through this relationship. The bottom line is that smartphones are here to stay, so we need to learn the best way in which to incorporate them into our lives.