The Long-Term Health Risks of Computer Use

30 November 2018

What's the one device that most workers use more than any other during the workday? Their computer. While computers can make us incredibly productive, the health risks of computers simply can't be ignored. In an era in which we use screens, tablets and cellphones nearly 24 hours a day, the visual issues posed by computers are compounded dramatically. PBS's Rewire says that the average person spends 11 hours each day looking at a screen and checks their phone every 10 minutes.

The Health Risks of Computers

Computers pose a variety of risks to one's health, especially one's posture and vision. The University of Pittsburgh says that sitting in awkward positions, staying in one position for too long and performing repetitive motions can lead to unnatural stress on the wrists, shoulders and back. Over time, fatigue and overuse can strain muscles and joints and lead to more costly health issues.

We can see light on a variety of wavelengths, including blue light, which is similar to the light we get from the sun. If you've ever used a computer for a long period of time and had tired eyes afterward, blue light is most likely to blame, according to the American Academy of Opthalmology. And if you spend too much time looking at a screen that emits blue light just before you go to bed, it can interfere with your rest by tricking your brain into staying awake.

5 Suggestions for Solving the Computer Ergonomics Problem

Sitting at a computer for extended periods of time is incredibly taxing on the body and can lead to obesity and even heart issues. Solutions for computer ergonomics problems range from very simple to complex, but the bottom line is that they must be counteracted. The solutions below can help solve for various factors in the equation, such as vision strain or more physical components, but the best computer ergonomics strategy involves a variety of approaches.

  1. Set alarms: Instead of staring at a screen without breaks for long periods of time, set alarms every 20 or 30 minutes to remind you to look away, blink and rest your eyes briefly before returning to work.
  2. Use blue light glasses: These glasses filter blue light, which can irritate your eyes and keep you awake, according to Women's Health.
  3. Consider a standing desk: If overuse injuries come from sitting in strange positions with poor posture, consider standing. It not only changes your posture — it also burns more calories.
  4. Get an ergonomic assessment: If you are feeling the onset of work-related shoulder or wrist pain, you should talk with your employer about getting a professional ergonomic assessment to identify potential issues and hotspots.
  5. Alternate tasks: The Australian government's Healthy Living site recommends looking for ways to mix up your tasks so you're not performing a specific activity for long, uninterrupted stretches.

The first step in combating the health risks of computers is to be aware of them. Now that you're familiar with some of the pressing issues and solutions, you can take the appropriate steps to protect yourself from overuse. Computers are incredible tools for productivity and performance, but it's important to find a balance so that they don't cause more harm than good.