Monday, 27 May 2019 20:08

Smartphone users put eye-health at risk: survey

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Smartphone users put eye-health at risk: survey Image AMBRO at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Australian smartphone users are putting their health — particularly eye health — at great risk through their “obsessive” use and misuse of their phones, according to a newly published survey.

The survey of 500 Australians, commissioned by online optical retailer clearly.com.au, and backed up by an earlier survey by Clearly’s global parent company, EssilorLuxottica, warns that people hold mobile phones five to 22 centimetres closer to their eyes than they hold newspapers, magazines and books.

And further damage is caused when this is combined with the pixellated images appearing on smartphone screens.

The nationwide survey conducted by Sentis Research also found that 60% of Australians use their smartphones in bed immediately before sleep and:

  • forty percent even use it in the bathroom;
  • fifteen percent of Australians would rather go a week without bathing or showering instead of going a week without their device; and
  • half of those surveyed said they'd give up coffee before their smartphone for a week and even more would be willing to give up alcohol for a week rather than their smartphone.

“Eye fatigue, blurred vision, headaches, neck pain and dry eyes are all common symptoms of digital eye strain, which not only occurs while sitting at a computer, but also as we stare at our seemingly constant companions: smartphones,” said Clearly.com.au chief executive Duncan Brett.

"Simply put, our eyes are working overtime to maintain focus. Our research strongly suggests that devices themselves can cause eye strain too. Electronics emit a form of blue light that causes our eyes to refract, making surrounding objects go in and out of focus. To fix this, we overcompensate by squinting”.

Other research findings reveal that:

  • Thirty-three percent admit to at least occasionally being distracted by their phone in social settings;
  • Thirty-nine percent admitted to missing what someone has said because they're on their smartphone;
  • Thirty-six percent look at their phone during a meal with others;
  • Thirty-two percent admit to pretending to pay attention to someone when they’re actually checking their phone;
  • When given the choice of going a week without their smartphone and going a week without talking to their best friend, almost half (47%) of Queenslanders surveyed chose their smartphone above to their best friend;
  • However, Queenslanders seem to be the nation's most attached to their television screens, with 65% stating they'd rather give up their smartphone for a week than give up TV or movies for a week; and
  • Of those surveyed from New South Wales, 29% often, or very often, look at their phone when walking on a public footpath, and only 60 of the 500 Australians surveyed indicated that they do not own a smartphone.

"Considering the impact of this high level of usage, Australians should talk to their eye-health professional about glasses made specifically to minimise digital eye strain and protect against blue light," said Brett.

And, eye-health experts at Clearly offer three easy tips to minimise digital eye strain:

  • Observe the 20/20/20 rule – every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away.
  • Avoid prolonged work on a tablet. Switch to a computer screen that is about 20-28 inches away from eyes.
  • Clean electronic device screens frequently to minimise glare.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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