Teens ache from tech

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A new study has found a link between teens staring at screens and constant aches published in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Public Health on June 8.

Torbjørn Torsheim, co-author of the study and associate professor at the University of Bergen in Norway, worked with an international team of researchers from Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland to study the link between inactive "screen time" and self-reported physical aches (back and head) amongst "a sample of 31,022 adolescents" from the collaborative research initiative (WHO/EURO) Health behaviour in school-aged children (HBSC) 2005-6.

"A rising prevalence of physical complaints such as back pain, neck and shoulder pain, and headache has been reported for adolescent populations. Parallel to this, adolescents are spending an increasing amount of time on screen-based activities, such as TV, computer games, or other types of computer based entertainment," said Torsheim.

Amongst teen girls there was a direct association between recurrent headaches and staring at a screen but not gaming.

As for the rest of the complaints, namely back- and headaches, it could not directly be linked to any one device or activity. The researchers suggest that it is about the length of time teens are inactive in front of a screen and ergonomics.  

The researchers concluded that, "The results indicate that time spent on screen based activities is a potential contributing factor to physical health complaints."

But before you make your children stop doing their computer on their computer and unplug the TV, Torsheim clarified that, "the consistent but relatively weak magnitude of associations is in line with the interpretation that screen time is a contributing factor, but not a primary causal factor, in headache and backache in the general population of Nordic school-aged teenagers."

The researchers intend to "... continue to monitor the cross-national development in the Nordic countries in the coming years, but longitudinal studies are needed to examine the causal relation between screen-based activities and health complaints."

Full study, "Screen-based activities and physical complaints among adolescents from the Nordic countries": http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcpublichealth