There are plenty of reasons to put our cellphones down and now researchers have said smartphones are ruining our posture. And bad posture doesn’t mean a stiff neck. It can hurt us in insidious psychological ways.
Technology is transforming how we hold ourselves, contorting our bodies into what New Zealand physiotherapist Steve August calls the iHunch or as some call it the text neckor iPosture.
The average head weighs about 10 to 12 pounds. When we bend our necks forward 60 degrees to use our phones, the effective stress on our neck increases to 60 pounds — the weight of about five gallons of paint.
When August started treating patients more than 30 years ago, he says he saw plenty of ‘dowagers’ humps, where the upper back had frozen into a forward curve, in grandmothers and great-grandmothers.
Now he’s seeing the same stoop in teenagers. When we’re sad or depressed, we slouch. We also slouch when we feel scared or powerless
Studies have shown that people with clinical depression adopt a posture that eerily resembles the iHunch. Posture doesn’t just reflect our emotional states; it can also cause them. In a study published earlier this year, Shwetha Nair and her colleagues assigned non-depressed participants to sit in an upright or slouched posture and then had them answer a mock jobinterview question, a well-established experimental stress inducer, followed by a series of questionnaires.
In fact, there appears to be a linear relationship between the size of your device and the extent to which it affects you: the smaller the device, the more you must contract your body to use it, and the more shrunken and inward your posture, the more submissive you are likely to become.
Ironically, while many of us spend hours using mobile devices to increase our productivity and efficiency, interacting with these objects, even for short periods of time, might do just the opposite, reducing our assertiveness and undermining our productivity.