Why Texting Can be Dangerous to Your Health (and Not Just While Driving)

by on June 11, 2013

texting drivingUnless you live under a rock, you have probably heard of texting. And unless you live under a rock with moss coating it, you most likely have also heard that texting while driving is hazardous to you and those around you.

That’s not the only dangers texting poses, according to a slew of studies, reports and other info concerning this incredibly popular form of communication. In addition to the road woes, texting has been shown to:

  • Increase anxiety and stress
  • Wreck your sleep
  • Induce physical ailments
  • Be addictive

Let’s start with the driving dangers, since they are most relevant to those with driving fears, and go from there.

Texting and Driving

Texting falls into the category of distracted driving, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says killed more than 3,000 people and injured 416,000 in 2010. And that’s not the only scary statistic.

  • Forty percent of American teenagers admitted to being in a vehicle with a driver that used a cell phone “in a way that put people in danger,” a Pew survey said.
  • Eleven percent of young drivers, ages 18 to 20, who were in a crash said they were sending or receiving texts when they crashed
  • Texting while driving makes the risk of crashing 23 times higher than the chances of non-distracted drivers being in a collision, according to Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

While no national ban exists on texting, several states have laws against the practice. Common sense can also play a huge part in refraining from texting while driving. Even if you don’t text while you’re behind the wheel, keep an eye out for other drivers that appear to be driving erratically and you may find them merrily texting as they dangerously make their way down the road.

Avoiding them is a good move for helping to alleviate driving fears as well as keeping you and your auto safe.

Texting and Anxiety and Stress 

Anxiety from texting can come in several forms. One is the irritation and anxiety caused by the constant vibration or sound alerts of incoming text messages. Another is from rushing to check those messages the instant they come in.

A third is texting’s potential contribution to social anxiety, with all the instant, faceless messages replacing face-to-face communication. Missing out on face-to-face interactions can likewise make people miss out on developing social skills and therefore feeling awkward or even fearing social situations.

And then there are the texting-before-bed scenarios. A study reported by ScienceDaily.com found that folks who played around on the Internet or sent a text message within two hours of bedtime had markedly higher levels of stress than those who refrained from such activities.

This particular study additionally found that other forms of technology, such as emailing or watching TV, did not induce the same high stress levels when used before bed. Even exercise, which is known to disrupt sleep, didn’t induce the same stress levels that texting and Internet use did.

Another theory says higher stress levels may come from interactions using technology. Texting again fills the bill, although this theory would also make emails fair game for upping anxiety right before slumber.

Texting and Sleeplessness

Texting appears to disrupt sleep with the higher stress levels noted above, and it also gets extra credit for disrupting sleep due to the light coming out of the texting screen. A number of studies have examined this relationship, finding that the blue light emitted from any electronic screen decreases the body’s natural production of melatonin.

Since melatonin plays a role in keeping our sleep-wake cycle on an even keel, all goes to pot on the sleep end of things if the blue light is overriding the natural cycle. The blue light phenomenon holds true across the board for all forms of technology, from texting to playing video games, from TV watching to computer use.

One note to note is that folks who are stressed-out may be the ones who are texting and using other technologies before bed, while non-stressed folks don’t necessarily feel the need to surf the web, answer emails or plop down in front of the TV prior to sleep.

Since a National Sleep Foundation poll indicated that a whopping 95 percent of Americans end up using some type of technology within an hour of hitting the hay, there may be a lot of stress out there. There may also be quite a few sleepless Americans. 

Texting and Physical Health Issues

Tennis elbow. Runner’s knee. And now we have “texter’s thumb.” This condition is related to the real-life diagnosis of “Blackberry thumb,” mentioned by the Huffington Post. Texter’s thumb comes with numbness in the thumb area, brought on by tendon inflammation due to excessively pressing all those buttons.

Other physical ailments brought about by texting can include dry eyes, germy, device-holding hands that carry infections, and “texter’s neck.” The latter is neck-area soreness brought about by the constant downward angle of your head while playing around with your text messages.

Texting and Dependency

A Japanese study looked at the country’s “unhealthy use of Internet and mobile phones” and found two types of addiction: Internet Dependency and Text-message Dependency. Both types of dependencies were associated with depression while Text-messaging Dependency once again got extra credit by also being associated with anxiety.

Speaking of dependency, we can’t resist throwing in one more texting hazard, courtesy of an Ohio doctor. He says teens that send at least 120 messages per day are more apt to smoke, drink and have sex. We’re not sure when they’d find the time, however, based on all that texting going on.

While texting can be a helpful way to send quick messages or use when appropriate, it’s never appropriate to text while driving. And it’s probably not a good idea to use text to such excess that it impacts your physical health, your mental health, your driving safety and even your driving fears.

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Photo Credit: tim caynes via Compfight cc

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