It is too soon to say just how mobile phone usage affects our health in the long term. It is however, a known fact that mobile phones generate electromagnetic fields (EMFs), radiation that causes change in anything that it comes into contact with. Because of the way we use our mobiles, it means that these EMFs come into direct contact with our brains. Studies have linked using a phone for a long period of time — ten years or more — with a higher incidence of brain tumors and non-cancerous ear tumors known as acoustic neuromas.
There are other adverse health factors associated with mobiles, including a reduction in the quality of men’s sperm, heart disease, other cancers, and female reproductive development damage. It is not always in the interest of the industry to look for solutions to these early signs of the effects of mobile phone technology on our health. Therefore, it falls to us to implement our own solutions. Here is a list of ways you can minimize your exposure to mobile phone EMFs:
• Minimizing use
• Using a shielded wire headset or speaker phone
• Keeping phone at a reasonable distance from the body
• Turning your phone off when not in use
• Using a land line with a corded phone whenever possible
• Texting instead of talking
• Switching phone from one side of the head to the other
• Avoid using your phone when reception is poor
Research into the effects of EMFs is ongoing, but whatever conclusions are reached, minimizing the effects now instead of later is timely and crucial.
It is undeniable that mobile technology and health are very comfortable bed fellows with the introduction of more and more apps and online services on the market to enhance personal health. Whether it is reminders about taking medication, health tips for pregnant mums, appointment reminders, or ‘smart pills’.
A report last November by research2guidance estimated there were more than 17,000 mobile health applications designed for smartphones. It forecast mobile and wireless health care services would expand significantly to reach 500 million mobile users, or about 30% of an estimated 1.4 billion smartphone subscribers worldwide, by 2015.
So why is it that Google chose to wind down their Google Health service recently after being introduced in the US in 2008? The service offered an open platform that allowed people to store and manage their health information, including immunisations, disease history and prescriptions in one place, with access to the records possible via various devices or mobile applications. Google explains that “There has been adoption among certain groups of users like tech-savvy patients and their caregivers, and more recently fitness and wellness enthusiasts. But we haven’t found a way to translate that limited usage into widespread adoption in the daily health routines of millions of people”.
There is an acknowledgement in Clinical Care that patient observations of daily life (ODLs) are key to making decisions about patient care, and giving the patient themselves insight into their own health. However, engagement of patients in monitoring their own health between episodes of care, and using technology to do this, is a challenge for the healthcare sector.
This might come down to simple consumer motivation. Consumers are not interested in providing health information without the ability to also participate in decisions that influence their health. Responding to an article by Marianne Kilbasuk McGee of InformationWeek, “Is 2012 the Year of Online Patients?”, Gil Tidhar recommends that (1) consumers are given the opportunity to access their (online) information and participate in decisions regarding their care; (2) consumers are provided with education to improve Health Literacy – making them better healthcare consumers (without making them doctors); and (3) education and regulation is used to encourage healthcare providers to include consumers in a collaborative care process.
Perhaps if health professionals were to see their patients in this more collaborative vein, by including them in decisions about their health, it would bring about more online patient engagement. In the future, perhaps we can hope to see mobile technology as a catalyst for not just changing patient behaviour, but also Health Professional behaviour.
Excessive use of mobile phones, particularly by teenagers, but also adults, has led to new terminologies in the psychological world to explain behaviour around texting. ‘Textaphrenia’ is the imagined hearing of a text alert or vibration when there isn’t one, or the constant checking of a mobile while waiting for a reply to a text. Jeannie Carroll, a Melbourne Technology Researcher with RMIT University discovered four new disorders associated with overuse of sms texting. Other terms are ‘Textiety’, the anxiety felt when waiting for a reply to a text; ‘Post-Traumatic Text Disorder’, involving injuries sustained to the body like stumbling or bumping into an object while trying to walk and text at the same time; ‘Binge Texting’ involves sending out multiple texts to give a boost to the self-confidence of a person that they have a lot of friends. These terms are not accepted as’ real’ in the world of psychology as yet, but there is sound evidence from studies to support the reality of the behaviour, and we will more than likely hear more of these terms in the future.
On the plus side of texting, Dr. Paul Zak, often referred to as Dr. Love because of his belief in hugging people to raise our oxytocin levels, says “E-connection is processed by the brain like an in-person connection”. The hormone, oxytocin is associated with feelings of empathy, generosity, trust, compassion and so on in humans. He, along with his colleagues, set up an experiment to measure the levels of oxytocin in blood before and after a 10-minute session of tweeting with friends and strangers. Tweeting boosted oxytocin levels by a little over 13 per cent and there was a significant drop in stress hormones.
It is back to the old adage ‘Everything in Moderation’, but if you’re feeling low, try texting or tweeting, just not while you are walking!
China Daily reports today (9 Feb) how a famous temple in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province is encouraging people to send blessings to friends and family by text message rather than burn incense. Guiyuan Temple, built in 1658, is a Buddhist temple in an urban area that attracts huge crowds for China’s traditional day of prayer and worship on the fifth day of the Chinese New Year (Jan 27 2012).
“This go-green initiative is the first of its kind among Buddhist temples in China. It helps reduce the size of crowds during peak seasons and lowers the risk of stampedes and fires,” said HanXue, a lay Buddhist who works at Guiyuan Temple in Wuhan.
The Hubei branch of China Mobile, a leading Chinese telecomoperator, is offering the text blessing service.
Though a sign that religion is in keeping with the times in China, the controversy arises with the cost of the service. Normally, text messages cost no more than .15 yuan (2c) in China, but a text blessing with 8 or fewer characters costs 3 yuan (36c), and longer ones of up to 20 characters cost 10 yuan (€1.20).
Wei Chi, a lay Buddhist who works at Famen Temple, Fufeng county, said temples should not seek to profit from people sending prayer messages.
Check out Diarybook’s text reminder prices. They’re cheaper than the cost of a blessing!
Full article by Guo Rui and Li Yao available at China Daily.