Screen time as a risk factor for many health problems – Naturopathic and naturopathic specialist portal

Relationship between screen time and disease risk

The screens are everywhere. Many people work in front of monitors on their computers, regularly look at their cell phone screens and spend their free time in front of the television. A current study now shows that the total time spent in front of such screens each day could be used as a risk factor for health problems – particularly obesity, lack of exercise and poor diet.

Apparently, the number of hours spent in front of screens gives an indication of health and lifestyle. (Image: metamorworks /

Researchers at Arizona State University looked at the type of relationship that screen time has with various health factors. It showed that those who spend most of their time in front of screens are more likely to have unhealthy lifestyles and risky health problems. The research results were recently presented in the journal “BMC Public Health”.

Screen time should be taken into account in total

“Much of the screen time literature has focused primarily on television,” says research director Chris Wharton. But modern technology allows screens to be used throughout the day. Wharton’s team found a link between health-related behavior and the total time spent in front of all kinds of screens each day.

Time spent in front of a screen correlates with lifestyle

Of more than 900 subjects examined, those who spent the most hours in front of a screen (over 17.5 hours) had the most unhealthy lifestyles and eating habits. Only people with at least two devices with a screen were included in the study. In the assessment, health-related factors such as eating habits, duration of sleep, quality of sleep, perception of stress, self-report of health, physical activity and body mass were included.

Differences in the devices used

However, there were also differences between the most used devices. When most of the time was spent in front of TVs and smartphones, it correlated with the more unhealthy lifestyle factors and the health risks that were occurring. Additionally, heavy smartphone users reported the worst quality of sleep. Long-term use of computers, laptops and tablets was, in direct comparison, associated with less harmful properties to health.

Underestimated smartphone screen time?

“We love to look at our phones and do the news,” says Wharton. The smartphone was used by many participants until shortly before bed and was the first screen used in the morning. The researchers recommend storing the smartphone two hours before going to bed to improve the quality of sleep.

Watching cravings in front of the TV

A relatively new phenomenon is also the so-called “binge-watch” series. Many streaming services allow episodes of a television program to be watched continuously in a single session. This is often associated with eating habits of fast food and eating in front of the television. People who regularly consume this type of consumption have also reported an increased perception of stress.

Unhealthy amenities add up

“We use media in different ways, including mobile,” Wharton said. The usage includes different devices and the convenience of using the screen also seems to influence the consumption of unhealthy food.

Limitations of the study

This study currently only shows a relationship between health and total daily screen time. The work lays the foundation for future research that should shed more light on this link. In addition, according to the researchers, it is necessary to check how the corresponding interventions affect the relationship. (v)

Author and source information

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This text conforms to the requirements of specialized medical literature, medical directives and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.


Graduate Editor (FH) Volker Blasek


Arizona State University: ASU Study Finds Association Between Screen Time Use, Diet, and Other Health Factors (Posted: 24.09.2020), asunow.asu.eduMatthew Buman, Tyler DesRoches , Christopher Wharton, among others: From TVs to tablets: the relationship between devices – specific screen time and health behaviors and characteristics; in: BMC Public Health, 2020,

Important note:
This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. It cannot replace a visit to the doctor.