Researchers at Arizona State University conducted a survey that revealed a possible link between poor health patterns and excessive screen time.
For this study, published in BMC Public Health, the researchers surveyed 900 adults across the U.S. who owned a television and at least one other device with a screen. Subjects assessed their screen time across multiple devices, dietary habits, sleep duration and quality, perceived stress, self-rated health, physical activity and body mass index.
"A lot of screen time-related literature has primarily focused on television," said Chris Wharton, assistant dean of innovation and strategic initiatives at Arizona State University's College of Health Solutions. "But with the advancement of all these other types of devices that people use throughout the day, we wanted to see how health behaviors and factors are associated with a variety of screen-based devices."
The results revealed that those who used screens an average of 17.5 hours a day had the least healthy dietary patterns and the poorest health-related characteristics compared with moderate and light users, who averaged 11 and 7 hours of screen use per day, respectively. Additionally, those who used smartphones heavily reported a lower quality of sleep.
"We love to look at our phones and worry ourselves with the news right before we go to bed," noted Wharton. "But one of the simplest things people can do for their health when it comes to screens—which is probably one of the hardest things to do because of the convenience and their addictive nature—is putting all those devices down, in particular your smartphone, two hours before bedtime."
The survey also revealed that binge-watching television was significantly associated with less healthy dietary patterns, including frequency of fast food consumption, eating family meals in front of the TV and perceived stress. According to Wharton, this survey can be used to inform future research, as it gives important insight into which negative health effects are associated with certain devices.