Computer-associated health problems: the elderly are at risk, too

September 20, 2010 by  

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How’s this for statistics on computer use:

  • People spend between 2 and 15 hours in front of the computer each day (according to self-reported online surveys).
  • Americans spend 2.6 million minutes on Facebook each day, according the latest statistics. Other top sites are Google, yahoo, and YouTube.

Ok, so you’d say, so what? Well, how about this?

  • A Flowtown survey revealed that the average age of Twitter users is 39 years, just 5 years younger than the average age of LinkedIn users (source: MLC).
  • 47% of Internet users aged 50 to 64 years old are regular social media users.
  • 26% of those above 60 have at least one social media account.

The point is, computer and Internet use are not restricted to the younger generation any more. These statistics indicate that many older adults spend lots of time sitting still in front of the computer. Health experts have expressed concerns about today’s kids and adolescents having too much “screen time”, with serious health consequences. But what about the elderly?

Sedentary lifestyle

The more time one spends on Facebook, the less physically active one is. It is great to have the elderly get on the information superhighway and keep up with the times. But not at the expense of their health. Overweight, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are just a few of the health conditions that result from a sedentary lifestyle.

Specific computer-related health problems

Then there are the health problems specifically associated with computer work.

Eye and vision problems

These are the most common problems associated with computer work. Symptoms include eye strain or fatigue, headaches and blurred vision.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD)

MSDs are also common complaints from frequent computer users, most especially damage to the tendons, muscles and nerves.

Carpal tunnel syndrome (also known as median neuritis) is a painful condition of the hands and wrists. It is caused by pressure on the median nerve, which runs from the shoulder, down the arm, to the hand. The syndrome can be caused by “working with bent wrists, a high rate of repetition using the hands, a lack of rest for the hands and wrists.” In other words, typing on the keyboard and playing video games.

Back, neck and shoulder problems, especially in the lower back are commonly reported when “sitting for long periods in a chair that does not provide support to the lower back (lumbar) region.”

Thus, working for long periods in the computer can hasten the development or progression of certain age-related conditions such as vision deterioration, arthritis, and impaired mobility.

Doctors are advised to issue warnings and recommend preventive measures not only to the young but to their older patients as well. You never know who is sitting in front of the computer these days.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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