Cell Phone Effects on Health (Mostly Positive or Negative?)
Cell phone effects on health has become one of the most widely discussed topics. While you must have heard a lot about how cell phones can negatively affect your health, there isn’t much talk about its positive effects.
Is cell phone really all bad for your health?
With more than 257 million users in the United States alone, smartphones have surely revolutionized the technology industry. According to an estimate, people spend close to 3 hours on their smartphones, on average, during a 16 hour period.
Anything that is so widely used is sure to have an impact on both individual and societal levels. Just like any other technology, there are both benefits and downsides of using mobile phones.
What you get out of it depends on the way you use it. However, as opposed to the common belief, smartphones do not only have negative effects – there is evidence that they can also positively affect your mental health.
Excessive cell phone use can definitely take a toll on your health, but if used in moderation, you can actually gain many benefits.
Positive Effects of Cell Phone on Health
Research shows that the way we move fingers while using smartphones can activate the sensorimotor cortex. This has led scientists to reach the conclusion that the sensory processing in the brain is affected by the digital technology we use.
In addition to this, cell phone apps with subliminal music are found to be beneficial for reducing anxiety and stress.
Another research study, published on JAMA Network in 2011, reported that the energy emitted by the cell phones caused a small increase in the use of glucose in the areas of brain that were close to antenna.
Apart from the effects mobile phones have on the functioning of the brain, they also help people connect and communicate, which can positively impact one’s overall wellbeing.
The idea of “telemedicine” has made it possible for people with social anxiety or other mental issues to seek help. It also helps people with physical disabilities to remain in touch with their doctors without the need to visit them.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that smartphones have connected people in ways that were previously impossible and have encouraged them to communicate and share their thoughts.
By creating new platforms and ways of engagement and allowing people to disentangle themselves from their troubles (even for a little while), cell phones are helping to reduce stress and promote overall well-being.
Negative Effects of Mobile Phone on Human Health
The negative effects of cell phones on one’s health can be divided into two categories: direct and indirect.
1. Direct Effects
The key reason for the increasing concern about the health risks of mobile phones is because their antennas emit radio waves, also called radiofrequency radiation.
There is a belief that these waves can get absorbed into the body parts that are in touch or close to the antenna and can increase the risk of developing certain diseases, including cancer.
However, there is not much scientific evidence to support these claims. The argument that the radiations that are emitted from cell phones can damage the DNA has been invalidated by most scientists.
They assert that mobile phone radiations are not strong enough to directly break the molecular or chemical bonds of DNA. According to scientists, human bodies and systems are strong enough to resist different types of external pressures.
Even in case of a few changes caused by external agents, our systems are capable of fighting or adapting them in order to regain the stability that was disrupted.
But, scientists have not completely rejected the hypothesis regarding the harmful effects of mobile phones on human health. This is because of certain challenges they face to interpret the findings of laboratory studies.
Findings of Research Studies Coordinated By the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)
Due to a limited number of research studies on cell phone radiation effects on human body with specific focus on cancer, the International Agency for Research on Cancer initiated a number of case-controlled studies that involved participants from different countries.
The main purpose of the studies was to identify the potential health risks of mobile phones due to the radiofrequency radiation emitted only from the cell phones (not from the base stations and antennas).
The Interphone Study, as it was collectively named, focused on identifying the relationship between cell phone use and risks for developing:
- Brain tumor,
- Acoustic neuroma,
- Salivary gland tumors,
- Any other types of neck and head tumors.
The first report on the findings of the studies was published in 2004. Here are the major findings of the research:
Only a few research studies found some evidence that long-term use of mobile phone can increase the risk of developing brain tumors; most of the studies found negative results.
Even the studies that found some link between cell phone use and brain tumor established that the risk can potentially increase 1.5 times in 5 to 10 years of mobile phone use.
However, the findings are not sufficient to establish the claim that cell phones can increase the risk of brain tumors.
This is a rare condition wherein a benign tumor grows on the auditory nerve. While the initial studies provided inconsistent results, the recent ones have found a connection between the disease and ten or more years of phone use.
However, the risk of the tumor is only limited to the side of the head where the person usually holds the phone. Furthermore, there were no risks of tumors found in people with less than ten years of phone usage.
Despite these latest findings, there is still a long way to go before they can be widely established; a lot more research is needed for that.
Limitations of the Studies Conducted By the IARC
The major limitation of the studies coordinated by the IARC was that it did not solely study the effects of smartphones. The participants have had the history of using analogue phones as well.
This makes it difficult to explain if the negative effects are caused by smartphones or analogue phones also contributed to this.
According to other research studies, the radiations emitted from cell phones can negatively impact your health and can cause:
- Effects on Brain, including increase in reaction time, difficulty in concentration, sleep disturbances, hypertension even when resting, and reduced production of melatonin.
- A few studies that studied cell phone radiation effects on the brain found that excessive exposure to cell phone radiations can also trigger the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Cell Damage.
- Increased risk of developing mouth cancer.
Some Other Health Issues Associated With Mobile Phone Use
There have been reports that extended or excessive use of cell phones can cause some relatively less severe health issues, such as:
- Tingling sensations in head or in auditory area,
- Sleep disorders,
- Blurred vision.
Most of the evidence that is available regarding the link between cell phone use and these health problems is largely anecdotal and there are only a very small number of research studies available that have evaluated the connection.
2. Indirect Effects
Indirect effects of cell phones on human health include accidents caused due to diverted attention when cell phones are used while driving. Another major problem is the effect of mobile phone on students.
A large number of students spend a lot of time on cell phones and as a result, end up ignoring their studies.
It has also been noticed that the increasing use of cell phones has also reduced the time people used to spend with their families.
While this cannot be generalized, many people now prefer to spend time watching movies or shows, or playing games on their cell phones as opposed to spending time talking to their family members.
Although it has not yet been listed in the Manual of Mental Disorders, researchers have been comparing it to gambling addiction. Cell phone addiction is a real problem.
A study conducted in the U.S. found that participants, who were mainly youngsters, experienced withdrawal symptoms when they were made to not use cell phones. The symptoms included increased blood pressure and heart rate and feelings of loss.
These are only some of the effects of cell phone use on human health. There are many psychological effects as well, which are beyond the scope of this article.