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When cell phones got smart, they started hurting people

Published Dec 5th, 2019 5:33PM EST
smartphone injuries
Image: Aflo/Shutterstock

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We like to think that smartphones make our lives a bit better, and in a few ways, that may be true. I mean, you couldn’t Facebook-stalk your ex on an old flip phone, right? Anyway, it seems that smartphones may actually be dangerous to our health, and not just because they suck up our souls and barf them out in a pile of regrettable tweets.

A study published today in JAMA draws a very clear link between the emergence of smartphones and head and neck injuries related to their use. The study includes data gathered between 1998 and 2017.

Everyone knows that texting (or tapping on your phone screen for any reason) while driving is hazardous. But being distracted by your phone can be dangerous in other ways, and the data shows that being too focused on your mobile device is a risk factor for lacerations, contusions, and other injuries related to the head and neck.

This isn’t to say that old-school feature phones couldn’t distract you, but the dramatic increase in phone-related injuries starting between 2007 and 2009 suggests that smartphones are even better at grabbing our attention.

It’s probably not a surprise that the majority of injuries over this time period occurred in people between 13 and 29 years of age, as that tends to be the age range packed with early adopters. The injury rates between males and females is a 44-to-56 percent split, with more females reporting phone-related injuries than men.

It’s worth noting here that there’s no official breakdown of what kinds of devices the individuals who reported injuries were using. We can’t, for example, definitively say that Apple’s iPhone is responsible for an increase in phone-related injuries.

Still, there’s no denying that the years immediately following the iPhone’s launch saw a dramatic increase in the rate of injuries. Between the iPhone and the emergence of Android flagships, lots of people found themselves distracted and, as a result, injured.