The Computer Revolution/Communication/Computers and Health
Computers and Health
How do computers affect our overall health?
Computers affect very many aspects of our health. They have so many great benefits to us and at the same time they have many negative effects on us. It has grown extremely common to find a job that has a primary function of computer use and as time goes on, it will only continue to get worse. Computers have become the way of the world, however although there are so many reasons that computers make our daily lives easier, there are also big effects that they have on us. Prolonged use has attributed to things like Carpal tunnel syndrome, it has also highly attributed to DeQuervain's tendonitis, both are attributed to the long term use of electronics. CVS (computer viral syndrome) is something that is a big issue that is growing and more increasingly a problem. CVS is a problem which contributes to eye and vision problems, it includes things like dry eyes and eye fatigue, sensitivity to light and many other problems. Some tumors have also been directly attributed to the long term electrical use. The amount of time that people spend on their cell phones is an increasing problem and can attribute to radiation and some forms of cancer, as the electronic age grows, so will the health concerns.
How do computers affect our mental health?
Where would we be without computer technology? There is little doubt that we would be lost without it, but there are dangerous side effects that affect our physical and mental health.Using the computer too much and other forms of technology are beginning to raise concerns about the state of people’s emotional health. Technology is something that is constantly changing whether it is on a personal level or at a job. People now have to know more computer skills in order to do their jobs and this can be stressful. There are some jobs that require people to be “on call” 24-7 and when they are not working they prefer if they didn’t have any contact with a phone or computer. A person can also feel burnt out with a combination of too much information and the ability to have access to technology all the time. You can also have an addiction to the Internet, this is beginning to be considered a serious disorder.
(Understanding Computers 13th edition, Deborah Morley and Charles S. Parker. 2011. pgs 658-661)
The Bad News - Isolation, depression and "data smog"
As we spend more and more time surfing the net, we are spending less time interacting with friends and family, going out to the movies, shopping, or walking in the park. Our time spent online is done alone, even though we may be chatting with real people, we are still alone. This leads to feelings of isolation which leads to depression.
One study uncovers another mental health issue associated with computer use: computer addiction. According to http://www.nique.net/issues/2000-09-15/news/6
"Use of the computer for pleasure, gratification, and stress-relief, as well as feelings of depression and irritability when away from the computer may indicate a computer use addiction. Also, neglecting work, school, and social activities in favor of computer time or sacrificing sleep for computer use can be symptoms of excessive use".
“Computers interfere with my sleep. I’ve lost hours of sleep when I’ve been on the computer,” freshmen Andrew Hyder said.
At http://mentalhealth.about.com/cs/computerstuff/a/datasmog.htm "data smog" is a term coined by David Shenk to refer to the information overload that many of us have experienced recently. The internet allows us to have access to entire libraries of information. The sheer volume of information which many of us are exposed to every day may actually impair our performance and add stress to our lives. Following are some tips to help avoid data smog:
- Turn off the television for at least an hour or two every evening.
- Spend some time each week without your pager or cell phone.
- Resist advertising - never buy a product based on unsolicited email (spam).
- Go on periodic "data fasts." A weekend in the country away from the telephone can rejuvenate a smogged-in brain.
- Write clearly and succinctly. Verbose writing is wasteful and difficult to read.
- Skim newsletters and magazines and rip out a copy of an article or two that you really want to read and digest.
- Filter your email. Many email programs allow you to set "filters" which send unwanted email directly to the trash. It is worth taking the time to do this.
- Allow others to filter the data for you. About.com's Guides are human information filters.
- Use the sites here to point you to just the information you want, while eliminating unwanted information.
- Do not forward chain letters, urban legends, urgent messages about email viruses, or claims that Bill Gates will send everyone thousands of dollars. These things clog up everybody's inbox with worthless stuff.
- Organize your Web bookmarks or favorites. Keeping these in meaningful folders will go a long way toward helping you really find that site you are looking for.
The Good News - Computer use is good for Seniors
On a more positive note, studies have shown that seniors can benefit and improve their well-being through computer use. At the Today Seniors Network (http://todaysseniorsnetwork.com/Computers_Mental_Health_Link.htm) one article states, "Seniors who become adept at and use a computer appear to have fewer depressive symptoms than those older adults who aren’t so technologically connected". Further, the seniors who participated in the study reported fewer depressive symptoms, regardless of the number of hours they spent on the computer.
Repetitive Strain Injury
Also commonly known by "RSI", Repetitive Strain Injuries are the result of repeated physical movements which can damage tendons, nerves, muscles and other soft body tissues. There is no limitation on the occupations which this syndrome is related to. It can be anybody from musicians, to computer techs, to factory workers.
When it comes to computers these injuries seem to be causing an epidemic directly related to the increase in computer use. Especially affecting the hands, arms, and shoulders. One of the main culprits of Repetitive Strain Injuries is the use of a mouse or trackballs. If there is an initial injury, dragging the mouse slowly actually increases the damage. There is also a problem with the thousands of repeated keystrokes which work the same muscles in the same way over and over, causing the injury. The typing technique and body position is extremely important. Incorrect positioning leads to unnecessary stress on the tendons and nerves in the hand, wrist, arms, and even the shoulders and neck. Lack of adequate rest and breaks and using excessive force almost guarantee trouble.
What are the Symptoms?:
1) Tightness, discomfort, stiffness, soreness or burning in the hands, wrists, fingers, forearms, or elbows
2) Tingling, coldness, or numbness in the hands
3) Clumsiness or loss of strength and coordination in the hands
4) Pain that wakes you up at night
5) Feeling a need to massage your hands, wrists, and arms
6) Pain in the upper back, shoulders, or neck associated with using the computer.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
One common RSI is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is pressure on the nerve in the wrist that supplies feeling and movement to parts of the hand. It can lead to numbness, tingling, and intense pain in the hand and wrist. The most common cause of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is typing on a computer keyboard on a consistent basis for a long period of time. That’s why it is so common in office workers.
Internet and Technology Addiction
When an individual is unable to stop using the internet to a level that it interferes with their life, their friends, and their schoolwork. This is called internet addiction. It can affect anyone of any age, race, or social class and can take on a variety of forms. Some of those are compulsive online gambling, shopping, social networking, e-mailing, and texting.
DeQuervain's Tendinitis is a condition where the tendons on the thumb side of the wrists are swollen and irritated. It is associated with typing on the tiny keyboards and thumbpads on mobile phones.It can result in wrist and forearm pain on the side of the thumb, particularly with certain positions and movements of the wrist. It is most often noticed after unaccustomed activity involving repeated lifting or side to side motion of the wrist. The problem is due to irritation of two tendons at a point where they run through a very tight channel ("the first dorsal compartment") from the forearm to the thumb. Many people have two small separate channels for the tendons and are particularly predisposed to this problem. How to avoid it: Avoid wrist positions and activities which are painful, if possible, ice for five to fifteen minutes at a time on the area which is most swollen and tender, a splint or brace which supports both the wrist and the thumb, a wrist support splint which doesn't support the thumb is not as effective as one that does, wait and watch. http://www.eatonhand.com/hw/hw008.htm
Computer Vision Syndrome
Computer Vision Syndrome is a collection of eye and vision problems associated with computer use. The most common symptoms are eyestrain, eye fatigue, dry eyes, burning eyes, light sensitivity, blurred vision, headaches, and pain in the shoulders, neck, or back. This is growing more common as people are reading more and more content on the small displays commonly built into mobile devices.
Professional Advice on Computer Vision Syndrome
VSP is a provider of eyecare benefits that was founded by a group of optometrists in 1955. On their website, they provide professional advice on how to relieve symptoms that point to computer vision syndrome. Here are the tips that they provide on their website. The link on the bottom will take you directly to the VSP page that provides this advice:
1. Keep blinking. It washes your eyes in naturally therapeutic tears.
2. Remember 20-20-20. Every 20 minutes, spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away, minimum.
3. Get the right light. Good lighting isn’t just flattering – it’s healthy for your eyes. So, keep bright lighting overhead to a minimum. Keep your desk lamp shining on your desk, not you. Try to keep window light off to the side, rather than in front or behind you. Use blinds and get a glare screen. Position the computer screen to reduce reflections from windows or overhead lights.
4. Monitor your monitor. Keep it at least 20 inches from your eyes. Center should be about 4 to 6 inches below your eyes. Also, make sure it’s big enough and with just the right brightness and contrast. Adjust the screen so you look at it slightly downward and are about 24 to 28 inches away. Adjust the screen settings to where they are comfortable — contract polarity, resolution, flicker, etc.
5. Wear those computer specs. Your doctor can prescribe a pair of glasses just for seeing the computer screen well. If necessary, wear the appropriate corrective lenses while at the computer.
6. Talk to your doc. Have a thorough annual exam conducted by your eye doctor.
The amount of information we are able to access through the internet, television, cellular phones that feature voice, text, and internet connection, radio, and newspapers, can be so vast that it could be able to cause an information overload. To help deal with searching for material on the internet, using good search techniques are critical to specifically finding what you are looking for. Work environments now integrate email messaging to allow the employers to contact the employees and for the employees to also contact other employees. A great way to cut down on wasted time on deleting spam messages is to create filters that reroute spam messages to the trash can. Another great way to save time while working with the workplace email messaging is to create folders and colors for certain people and projects. To resolve information over load one would just simply turn off the devices. The book states that “It can take up to 25 minutes after an interruption to concentrate fully again on a task, these companies have found that employees who avoid continually jumping back and forth between email and other activities increase productivity and decrease stress significantly.” In order to be able to more easily avoid wanting to check for messages, “close your email program, turn off your new email alert notifier, or mute your speakers.” Taking these measures will allow you to be able to focus on accomplishing tasks.
References: Morely, Deborah; Parker, Charles. Understanding Computers Today and Tomorrow. Course Technology, 2011. Pages 659-660. Print.