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Tech Trouble: The Long-Term Health Effects From Technology Usage

In the last 10 years, technology has become such a big part of our lives that we barely think about how many times a day we use it in some form or another.

We have smart homes starting our morning coffee and turning lights on and off for us. Most people pull out their smartphone the minute they wake up to check email or browse social media.

Every month, about 543,000 new businesses open, and almost all of them use some sort of technology. Some of the most popular industries for startups include technology, ecommerce and healthcare.

If you run a tech startup, you may want to pay particular attention to the long-term health effects from technology use and ways to circumvent them.

1. Shorter Attention Spans

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Have you noticed that kids today have shorter attention spans than in the past? It isn't just your imagination.

Technology has placed everything at our fingertips and made information immediately accessible. Most people have an attention span of 12 seconds or less. This means people get distracted more easily, which can result in on-the-job injuries as well as lack of focus.

Each day, workers have so much information coming at them that it's difficult to process all that data. Our minds aren't computers, and there is a limit to how much knowledge the average person can store at one time.

All this may lead to more stress at work and impact our health, as blood pressure rises and tension causes back and neck pain as well as anxiety disorders.

One solution is offering workers an "unplugged break" each day. Create a calm atmosphere without any electronic devices whatsoever. When your employees feel stressed and overwhelmed, they can step away to the break area and take a few deep breaths to recharge.

2. Loss of Cognitive Function

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Our brains have changed in the way we retain information.

Think about those in Generation X as an example. They had to memorize seven-digit phone numbers if they wanted to call anyone. Fast forward to Generation Z, which can access phone numbers by simply browsing their smartphone. They rarely call anyone anyway, preferring SMS.

Remembering temporary information is a vital part of completing everyday work, but the ability to retain things such as numbers declines as we get older.

Fortunately, there are some things people can do to counteract the impact of technology on spatial memory and overcome age factors.

Studies into helping those with memory impairments show spearmint extract may help when given in a daily 900-milligram dose. People can also use apps and games that engage the mind and increase cognition.

3. Vision Issues

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Staring at a screen for a large portion of the day may result in computer vision syndrome, where you don't blink enough and get dry eyes and eye strain.

For tech company employees, this may be a particularly troublesome issue. It's difficult to write code if you can't see the screen well.

Counteract the impact of screen time by blinking. People blink less often when looking at a computer, so be intentional. Keep artificial tears on your desk and use them a few times throughout the day.

Take a 20-20-20 break, where you stop every 20 minutes or so and stare at something 20 feet away for a minimum of 20 seconds.

4. Neck and Lower Back Strain

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Workers who bend over a computer screen all day sometimes suffer from neck strain. Sitting for too long can lead to back issues as well.

Learn to take frequent, short breaks from work. Get up and walk around your office space or do some light stretches. Roll your neck slowly from side to side to work the muscles and release tension.

Technology companies should invest in ergonomic workstations for the entire office. Desks that convert from a sitting to standing position provide options and help lessen strain. Chairs with lumbar support prevent back issues.

Talk to your employees about their aches and pains during the day, and enlist the assistance of a professional in ergonomics to ensure working conditions are the best they can be.

5. Weight Gain

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Sitting for long hours and not moving much leads to a sedentary lifestyle, which comes with an entire host of health problems.

Workers may gain weight over time, which can worsen back pain and lead to loss of productivity. Other issues associated with lack of movement include increased risk of diseases that impact employees' overall health.

Provide frequent breaks and encouraging employees to get out of the office to get some sunshine and fresh air. Provide a workout area if possible for before and after work or for use during lunch breaks. Encourage workers to move more by starting an office initiative.

6. Loss of Sleep

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Technology impacts sleep, as well. Humans have natural circadian rhythms, which are impacted by light and dark.

These patterns go off-kilter as we stare at the blue light from smartphone screens up until a few minutes before going to bed and fool our bodies into thinking it's still daytime.

Eventually, people find they can't fall asleep as quickly as they'd like.

Get back into regular sleep patterns by ending screen time at least an hour before bed. Get up and go to sleep at similar times every day. Use common-sense techniques to make your bedroom a haven for rest, such as blocking out light, using a white noise machine, and keeping the temperature cool and comfortable.

Take a Technology Detox

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Technology impacts every element of life, sometimes in positive ways and sometimes in negative ones. Counteract the cons with common-sense approaches and take a break from tech once in a while.

Spend the day on your back patio listening to the birds chirp or go for a walk and commit to not look at your phone, listen to music, or check your email.

Learn to enjoy the world around you and create a balance between the helpful technology of today and the simple pleasures in life.

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Lexie Lu

Lexie Lu

Lexie Lu is a freelance graphic designer and blogger. She keeps up with the latest design news and always has some coffee in close proximity. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.