Technology is all around us and the impact it plays in our lives is significant. There are benefits to technology, such as our ability to find and sift through large amounts of information quickly. Unfortunately, there is a downside to technology’s influence on our lives as well. Many are surprised to find that despite all of the gadgets designed to help us be healthier, technology actually has some detrimental effects. What are these effects? What can you do the help prevent them?

There are two major components that technology impacts: mental and physical. The mental impacts are just as important as the physical.

One of the chief mental effects is impatience. People are far more impatient now than they used to be. This is largely due to the ability of technology to provide us with almost anything that we want instantly. We have grown so accustomed to instant gratification being the norm that when something doesn’t happen instantly, we are very quick to become impatient.

How often do you go to watch a video on the internet, and if it doesn’t load quickly enough, do you wait for it, or do you move on to something else?

Another issue related to the mental pitfalls of technology is distractibility. Overall, our ability to focus on a task has decreased tremendously. It can be from external (checking social media) or internal (thinking about someone trying to get in touch with you) sources.

The third major issue with technology in regard to mental disadvantages is our need for constant entertainment. We are becoming increasingly incapable of entertaining ourselves without using some sort of electronic device. We are losing our ability to interact well with others in real life because we are so absorbed by our technological devices. This disconnect leads to lower self-esteem, which also affects our mental well-being.

The other negative influence technology plays a role in is on our bodies. Technology can actually cause physical problems. One of the most common is vision problems. They usually occur in the form of eye strain, blurred vision, or dry eyes and are caused by staring at a screen for extended periods of time.

Another issue that can have serious, long-term consequences is hearing loss. This is caused by increasing earbud use and damages the sensitive hair cells in your inner ear. Once damaged, they never grow back, meaning the hearing loss is permanent.

Neck strain is the third biggest complaint that has increased with our use of technology. This is because the way we sit and look at computer screens and phones puts our necks into awkward positions resulting in strain, leading to pain, not only in your neck but your head as well (tension headaches).

Since we are sitting more in order to be able to use our technological devices, we are at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attack, and cancer. This risk is still present even if you exercise on a regular basis.

Technology also affects our sleep. We have exposure to artificial light (even low-level light from computer and TV screens count) almost around the clock and this throws off our circadian rhythm, which can lead to depression and mood disorders. All of this bright light reduces the production of melatonin (the hormone that regulates sleep), decreases leptin (the hormone that makes you feel full), and increases ghrelin (the hormone that makes you feel hungry). These changes contribute to the possibility of weight gain and other health concerns.

We can do things to help break this cycle of technology’s more harmful outcomes. The biggest one is to take breaks and get up to move around. This has been shown to be the biggest benefit in reducing eye strain and neck problems. Take a look at why you want to be on your technological device. Obviously, if it’s work-related, then you might not have much of a choice, but if it is because you want to be entertained, maybe you should look at doing something else for a bit.

Giving your work or entertainment space a makeover to make it more ergonomic can help to decrease the amount of discomfort you feel. The most important thing that you can do is to turn the lights and devices off, all of them, when you are trying to sleep.

Technology is an amazing thing. Every day there is something new that is designed to help us to have better lives. It is important that we remain in control and do a better job of managing our use…the health impacts, if we don’t, can be substantial!