Mobile device overuse linked to higher BMI, other adverse health outcomes


Gupta N. RF12 | PSUN103. Presented at: ENDO Annual Meeting; June 11-14, 2022; Atlanta (hybrid meeting).

Gupta reports to be the founder and director of Phreedom.

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ATLANTA — People who spend more time per day using wireless mobile devices are more likely to have a higher BMI, lower quality sleep and other adverse health outcomes, according to an ENDO 2022 presenter.

Findings from a literature review show that every hour per day the mobile screen time was associated with an increase in BMI, and excessive use of the device was linked to insufficient sleep, increased daytime fatigue, sleepiness, and depression. The adverse health effects make it necessary for people to adopt strategies to reduce the use of their mobile devices, thus: Nidhi Gupta, MDfounder and director of KAP Pediatric Endocrinology in Franklin, Tennessee.

Tips to reduce the screen time of wireless mobile devices

Adults can reduce mobile device screen time by turning off non-essential notifications and being aware of mobile device usage. The content of the infographic is derived from Gupta N. RF12 | PSUN103. Presented at: ENDO Annual Meeting; June 11-14, 2022; Atlanta (hybrid meeting).

“We’re not asking to throw devices out the window,” Gupta said at a news conference. “We advocate moderation, balance and real-life engagement. We should try to find joy in our offline life so that the joy in online life is not as strong as the pull you want to avoid in order to avoid the joy of offline life.”

Nidhi Gupta

Gupta conducted a literature search of the PubMed and MEDLINE databases for smartphone, screen time and phone addiction studies through May 2021. The search was conducted as part of a population-based educational initiative entitled Freedom from smartPhone (Phreedom). 655 initial citations were found, 234 of which were in the study.

Addiction to wireless mobile devices is linked to the stimulus sensitization theory of addiction. Users receive a signal, such as a notification or a message on a locked screen, or start using their device when they are bored, frustrated or complete a tedious task. The notification triggers a release of dopamine that triggers compulsive behavior where a user constantly looks at their device as an escape or distraction. The user will reach for the device, check email, social media or perform some other task and will feel good about satisfying the craving, Gupta said.

“The more times we go through this trigger loop of wireless mobile devices, the stronger it gets,” Gupta said. “Every time our brain experiences this sense of reward, we look for the next cue. Every time there is a cue, we look for the next reward.”

Overuse of wireless mobile devices can cause several adverse health effects. According to the review, every hour of screen time is associated with a 0.05 kg/m2 up to 0.07 kg/m2 increase in BMI (p < .001). Contributing factors to this increase include distracted overeating, disturbed sleep, and delaying healthy activities, such as abstaining from physical activity, family time, or sleep.

“The main factor that seems very logical and obvious is the increase in sedentary time, because of the amount of time we spend on our devices,” Gupta said. “But there is more to it. We have a limited number of free hours within a given day. An inordinate amount of screen time will no doubt crowd out a number of other essential activities from those free hours.”

Excessive screen time is also associated with other adverse health effects, such as illegal substance use. People who younger at age of first exposure to mobile devices and those with long-term exposure to devices are more likely to have adverse health outcomes.

Gupta said several strategies can be implemented to reduce screen time from mobile devices. She said people should turn off all non-essential notifications; notice irrational cravings and specific time to check emails and social media; making the mobile device difficult to access by placing it in a drawer or zip pocket or by using a complicated password to open it; and make the device dull and unappealing by uninstalling the social media application or using a time-locked program.

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