We are healthier and living longer than ever before. But 21st-century lifestyles bring their own perils.
York health and wellbeing mutual Benenden has been doing some research on what they are and how to alleviate them.
So – how many of these modern health problems do you have?
1. Text claw
Text claw can affect frequent mobile users, resulting in wrist pain, thumb tenderness, hand spasms and difficulty with gripping.
Better known among doctors as De Quervain syndrome, text claw is a type of repetitive strain injury (RSI). The thumb is painful to straighten due to inflamed tendons.
The condition can usually be remedied by taking time out from thumb-intensive activities, applying ice to the area and taking pain relief if required.
2. Information fatigue syndrome
Life in the ‘information age’ can feel like weathering a never-ending storm of digital distractions, from 24-hour television to mobile phone messages and bulging email inboxes.
This information deluge is equivalent to trying to read 174 newspapers every day, researchers say.
It can cause information fatigue syndrome – also known as information overload – leading to anxiety, poor concentration, indecision – and a compulsion to check your messages.
Take control of technological devices, rather than letting them control you.
3. Phantom phone vibration
Smartphone users typically receive about 50 alerts per day for calls, messages and social media updates.
Sometimes, though, prising an apparently vibrating phone from a pocket reveals a blank screen, with some 90% of mobile owners saying they’ve experienced this phantom phone vibration.
According to Dr Robert Rosenberger, of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta: “Mobiles are somehow changing our brains, making us feel inclined to feel these vibrations.”
4. 3D viewing sickness
Movies and TV in 3D can be a turn-off, making some viewers suffer from eyestrain, headaches or nausea.
Normally when we see an object getting closer to us, our eyes rotate inwards to focus on it in a process called accommodation.
When watching a 3D film, our eyes focus on an area in front of the screen, making everything momentarily blurry, which for anyone with less than perfectly aligned eyes or not sitting directly in front of the screen can lead to queasy, headache-inducing optical effects.
5. Blue light insomnia
A tiny biological clock, no bigger than a grain of rice, ticks continuously in a brain region called the suprachiasmatic nucleus just behind the eyes. It tells your body when it is time to wake, time to eat, time to work and time to sleep.
Because modern LED screens and smartphone displays emit some of the same blue light as found in normal daylight, a few glances can be enough to cause levels of the powerful sleep hormone melatonin to plummet.
Then it’s goodbye dream time, and hello insomnia.
The easiest and most effective answer to a good night’s sleep is to leave the phone out of the bedroom after dark.
6. Headphone-induced hearing loss
Half of all people aged 12–35 regularly listen to music through headphones at levels above 85 decibels – the equivalent of a microwave beep – for prolonged periods.
Exposure to sound at this level for more than a few minutes damages the delicate sound-sensing hair cells deep within the ear. They can’t be repaired once destroyed.
Experts recommend volume should be turned up to no higher than 60% of a personal audio device’s maximum loudness. And listening to music through headphones should be limited to one-hour stints.
7. Cyclist’s bum
Two million Britons saddle up once a week, and it’s a great way to get fit. But it can also have potential health issues. One such condition is ‘numb bum’ – or peroneal nerve compression.
Research shows 61% of male and 34% of female cyclists are affected. Adjusting saddle angle, height and handlebar position can help shift weight away from the vital nerves.
Former Tour de France cyclist Daniel Lloyd says: “Taking a few seconds pedalling out of the saddle every few minutes can allow the blood to flow and alleviate pain.”
A version of this article first appeared in Be Healthy, the magazine for members of Benenden.