Social Distancing Can Be a Risk Factor All Its Own

Adult screen time is a term most adults don’t acknowledge as a problem. Ask a parent about their child’s screen time and frustration begins immediately! Has adult screen time during work from home and shelter in place negatively affected the physical and mental health of American adults?

Humans, as part of the mammal species, are social animals. Mammals live in families, packs, and herds, which make up a community support system. Any four-legged mammal taken away from its family, pack, or herd, doesn’t live very long. “… social species struggle when forced to live in isolation.”, says a study in Science Daily. As humans were forced to isolate themselves and use screen time more than ever, loneliness and physical health problems reared their ugly heads.

Brain scan of depression vs normal

Working from home was the dream for everyone! Wake up when you want. Wear your pajamas all day, maybe not even shower? Play with the kids at any time because the boss or your direct reports aren’t around. Have a lunch cocktail or two and start happy hour at 3:30. For the first week or two the vacation mentality was on, then reality set in and the same fun opportunities became fatigued and depressing. The same study from Science Daily says, “Loneliness directly impairs the immune system, making us less resistant to diseases and infections.”

Forward Head Position

From a postural standpoint, more adult screen time pulls your neck and head into a forward position. “Text Neck” is the term given to this dysfunction of the neck muscles and resulting muscle imbalances that cause headaches and disc compression. As an NASM certified Corrective Exercise Specialist, I’m trained to assess and provide an exercise type prescription helping people overcome these types of imbalances. A forward head position from looking down at a screen also contributes to rounded shoulders and a hunched over appearance. You know exactly what I’m talking about because you see it in the mirror every morning.

Gaining weight is a simple math problem, more calories in and less used equals a surplus of stored energy called fat. People don’t like to see themselves when they’re overweight. They have low confidence and self-esteem which can snowball into depression. Being overweight also wreaks havoc on knee, hip, and ankle joints to support the extra mass. More postural problems result for the low back to stay mobile for normal movements. Sheltering in place provides the perfect lab environment for math complete its natural equation and add 10 pounds or more over three months.

Excessive adult screen time while working from home and sheltering in place is becoming its own pandemic. Zoom call after Zoom call with additional emails and presentations to make are now the new normal for executives and professionals. Netflix, Facebook, and Amazon Prime dominate the days for the over 65 population who aren’t working as much or are retired. Age accelerates the problems mentioned already, now cognitive decline is a serious concern added to the physical atrophy happening.

What about isolation and screen time for your children or grandchildren? A similar story results for them. Study coauthor Valerie Hruska from the University of Guelph writes, “Previous research has shown that high screen use is linked to health issues in children, including lower activity levels, obesity and even language delays in younger children because they engage in less back-and-forth conversation.” Can children take on the same postural issues as adults? Yes, absolutely. Look at the slouching junior high and high school student, forward head and rounded shoulders from staring down at their device hours upon hours daily. While teens are a different beast than adults, they are the same mammal.  

Working from home isn’t all it originally thought it would be. The mental and physical health effects are months and years away from being finished. Whatever your views on social distancing, science shows it is not a healthy mid and long term option for humans mentally and physically:

  • “social isolation is a significant predictor of the risk of death;
  • insufficient social stimulation affects reasoning and memory performances, hormone homeostasis, brain grey/white-matter, connectivity and function, as well as resilience to physical and mental disease” – The Neurobiology of Social Distance

Get out and meet people again. The economy is reopening, use your judgement on the extent of social interactions. Life is more fun with friends and your loved ones. If you need help with your postural sins and joint pains, go to my website and get a free report, “3 Tips to Reducing Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.” My coaching programs could be the answer your looking for to fix adult screen time pain. We all need each other face-to-face, make it happen!

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