How Smartphones Affect Our Bodies: The Good, the Bad, and the Radiation

These days, it’s rare to meet someone who doesn’t own a smartphone. Whether you’re a fan of Apple, Samsung, Motorola, or another phone brand, smartphones give… Trista - September 1, 2019

These days, it’s rare to meet someone who doesn’t own a smartphone. Whether you’re a fan of Apple, Samsung, Motorola, or another phone brand, smartphones give us access to the entire internet right in the palm of our hands. They make it easy to communicate with others, get work done, and have fun. Smartphones are also handy for taking great pictures, watching videos, and even meeting new people. In this digital age, it’s hard to imagine not reaching for our phones throughout the day for updates.

Have you ever considered how your smartphone could be impacting your health? Maybe you’ve noticed that your vision has changed. Or that your neck seems sore at the end of the day. Perhaps your thumb begins to cramp after a full day of scrolling through your phone. Experts believe that quite a few medical conditions have cropped up that are entirely caused by the constant use of smartphones. To learn more about your smartphone could be affecting your body, keep reading.


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1. Smartphones 101

Smartphones are different from traditional phones in that they have advanced mobile operating systems and stronger hardware. These devices allow us to browse the internet, listen to music, watch videos, and much more. Phones like these have numerous sensors inside that help to connect to Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS navigation.

Smartphones were originally intended to bridge the gap between PDA devices and cell phones. The early versions of smartphones were bulky and had a short battery life and unreliable data service. In the early 2000s, Windows, Blackberry, and Motorola all had popular smartphones on the market. It wasn’t until the iPhone launched in 2007 that the smartphone truly became mainstream.

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2. A Brief History of Mobile Phones

The development of the smartphone dates back to 1959. That was when the MOSFET, a type of transistor, was built. This device is the basis of all computing devices.

The technology that was advanced through MOSFET led to the building of wireless mobile networks, which are required to operate a smartphone. Because of that technology, several wireless mobile networks were built in the late 1990s, and by the early 2000s, advances had been made to increase bandwidth. Additionally, the lithium-ion battery was invented in the 1980s, commercialized in the 1990s, and became the primary energy source for smartphones.

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3. How It All Works with Hardware

Like computers, smartphones contain a central processing unit, known as a CPU. CPUs in smartphones are designed to work in environments with low power. Smartphones are unique in that their screens fill almost the entire face of the phone. Some smartphones have screens that are so large that they resemble tablets.

The most common types of displays for smartphones are LCD or liquid-crystal displays. These screens are designed to be pressure-sensitive, so they can work as touchscreens. One thing about smartphones is the battery life. While phone batteries have gotten better recently, you may find that your phone will suddenly lose a charge very fast. Because of that, people have started carrying a portable phone charger as well as using one in their car.

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4. Software is Essential for Smartphones

The operating system that smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and other mobile devices use is referred to as a mobile operating system. A mobile operating system takes features that are found in the operating systems of personal computers and makes them more optimal for handheld use. This software is essential for your phone’s cellular data, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and even touchscreen to operate.

Different types of phones like the iPhone, Galaxy, and Google Pixel use different operating systems. Most smartphones will have two mobile operating systems. One focuses on running the leading software while others will manage other hardware such as the radio.

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5. Smartphone Sales

You may be wondering how the sale of smartphones overtime has any correlation to your health. Nevertheless, it is vital to be aware of how many people truly utilize a smartphone to determine how many people are being affected, and how. The reach of smartphone shipments since 1996 has steadily increased. By the fall of 2011, nearly 30% of all photographs taken were with smartphones equipped with cameras. Four out of every five smartphone users will use their phone for online shopping.

In 2013, the number of smartphones that have been shipped reached 1 billion units. The brands that have the highest rates of shipment are Apple and Samsung. Huawei, Lenovo, and LG are the next most popular brand of smartphone. While Apple has been seen as the most popular type of smartphone, Samsung’s sales have been slowly overtaking them.

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6. Almost Everyone Uses Smartphones Everyday

Smartphones are great for a wide variety of things. They are ideal for keeping in touch with friends and family, running a business, and in case of emergency. Many people choose to have more than one mobile phone.

Mobile phones give many people access to phones when they wouldn’t be able to have a landline. Many television companies are using mobile phones to get viewers interested in watching live TV programs. Approximately 86% of people in America scroll through their smartphone while watching TV. Smartphones have also become useful for companies to advertise their products. Many brands create content specifically for mobile devices.

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7. Social Media is a Popular Activity

Aside from calling and texting, the number one use of smartphones is most likely social media. It’s hard to find anyone these days who isn’t on at least one social networking site. Websites and apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat dominate popular culture, especially among teens and young adults.

Social media is a great way to communicate with friends and meet new people. You can join groups and pages based on your favorite TV shows and artists. Many people turn to apps like Tinder or Bumble for online dating right on their phones. Even though social media can be fun, many reports have come out about social media and mobile phone addiction being on the rise.

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8. Driving with Smartphones

While driving while using your phone is not always allowed, this practice is quite common. Many people will text and drive, and some even dare to play games behind the wheel. Another big reason for using a smartphone in the car is for GPS navigation.

While you may not realize it, distracted driving, even for a few seconds, can lead to an accident. Studies show that the rate of distracted driving has gone up since smartphones became popular. To combat this, many new phones can recognize when you’re driving and won’t let you answer a phone call or text message.

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9. Help with Mobile Banking

Another great use of smartphones is mobile banking. It’s incredibly convenient to be able to check your bank balance and make transfers on the go. Some phones will even hold onto your credit card information so you can go places without your wallet.

The first mobile banking payments happened in 1998 when two Coca-Cola vending machines began to accept SMS payments. With mobile banking, you may be able to transfer funds to another person via text message. Several countries operate as branchless banks, doing business strictly online and via mobile phone. You may notice some stores like Target, Walmart, and Starbucks have sensors so you can glide your phone across them and make a payment.

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10. Tracking and Other Smartphone Security

While you may not think about it much, smartphones and other mobile devices are frequently tracked. Many machines are easy to follow, which can lead to issues for many people. Our cell phones are continually collecting location data, even when we don’t realize it.

When a mobile phone is on, your movements can be easily traced. Smartphones will ping when near a cell tower, marking down your location. Additionally, your SIM card works to track your whereabouts. Mobile phone security is important because hackers can find a way to hack into your phone to find the location, record calls, and access text messages just with your phone number.

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11. Smartphones Help with Education

The use of smartphones may lead to a decline in children’s and teenager’s schooling. It’s easy for kids to become distracted during and after class by what’s on their phone. Studies have shown that banning smartphones in school can improve a student’s academic performance, benefiting them as much as an extra week of class per year.

In addition to being distracting, students can use their phones to cheat on tests and even take inappropriate pictures. In many places it’s illegal, but some schools have turned to cell phone jamming to disrupt a phone data signal, making phones unusable in school. On the other hand, allowing cellphones in school is beneficial because it gives kids access to their parents in an emergency.

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12. Health Aspects Regarding Smartphone Usage

You may be wondering if the frequent use of a smartphone can affect a person’s health. In reality, using a mobile phone can impact many aspects of our health. The main reason for this is the radiation emitted by smartphones.

Smartphones use electromagnetic radiation in the microwave range, which many believe can be harmful to the health of humans. The World Health Organization determined in 2011 that mobile phones could be possibly considered carcinogenic to humans, on the same scale as coffee and gasoline. Some studies have shown a possible link between cell phone use and tumors in the brain and salivary glands.

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13. Spreading Germs

Cell phones are quite possibly one of the germiest devices out there. We take our smartphones everywhere with us — in the kitchen, in bed, and even into the bathroom! Can you remember the last time you cleaned your cell phone?

A recent study found that 1 in 6 smartphones has E.coli bacteria, viruses, and other germs on it. That could be because users aren’t washing their hands properly. Fortunately, smartphones are hard surfaces on which bacteria have a difficult time surviving. Be sure to wipe your phone down with cleanser occasionally. You can even find devices designed to sanitize smartphones.

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14. Text Neck

Have you ever felt the tension in your neck at the end of the day? Does looking down at your phone feel weird or painful? Then you may have a case of text neck syndrome.

When we look down at our phones frequently throughout the day, we can cause tightness, spasms, and neck strains. This nerve pain can even extend to your back, down your arm, and to your shoulder. To avoid text neck syndrome, take a break every 20 minutes to stretch, walk around, and arch your back. Avoid hunching and try to hold your phone up higher to protect your neck. If your posture is pretty weak, consider taking yoga or Pilates to strengthen neck muscles.


15. Smartphones and the Brain

Studies show that the average American touches their smartphone at least 2,600 times each day. What effects can this constant scrolling have on our brain? Should we be worried?

Researchers have found that introducing children to mobile devices at an early age can change brain development. The more a person is attached to their phone, the harder time they have with thinking conceptually, deeply, and attentively. It can also affect how well they remember necessary information like phone numbers, email addresses, and even birthdays. Having a smartphone in sight, but not on, can still result in issues with problem-solving and short-term memory.

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16. Shoulder Pain

Holding a smartphone up to your ear for a phone call may seem harmless, but it can do some severe damage. Pinching a smartphone with your shoulder is an unnatural position and can cause much tension. Like text neck syndrome, shoulder pain due to smartphone use is real and painful.

If holding a phone to your ear starts to hurt your shoulder and neck, take a break from using your phone and move your neck from side to side to stretch it. If the pain won’t go away, rest your neck, and apply a heating pad. You can take some pain relievers to help with stiffness and inflammation. Try to find a pair of earbuds or headphones with a microphone to make taking phone calls easier.

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17. Blue Light

One thing we probably all do is use our smartphones at night. Many people have the bedtime routine of scrolling through social media and chatting with people while we lay in bed. This habit is not only bad for your eyes, but it can also disrupt your sleep.

The blue light emitting from mobile devices has been known to cause serious health issues. Being exposed to too much light after the sun goes down can lead to developing hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and other serious health issues. Try to put your phone down at least an hour before bed to sleep better. Additionally, being exposed to natural light during the day will lead to a more restful sleep at night.

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18. Walking and Talking

It may seem possible to walk around from place to place and text at the same time but think again. In the few seconds, you take to look down at your phone; you could walk into a busy intersection and be hit by a car. Talking on the phone isn’t any safer. It’s possible to be distracted by a phone call and not hear a car horn honk at you before it’s too late.

This applies to using the phone at home as well. Most common injuries happen while being on the phone at home. Head injuries, muscle sprains, tendon issues, and broken bones can all be attributed to not paying attention while on the phone. If you need to use your phone, take a break and have a seat while you use it.

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19. Human Decency

The reliance on cell phones has gotten in the way of basic human decency. We’ve become so wrapped up in our phones that we tend to pay less attention to the world around us. Studies have found that the use of smartphones has led to a reduction in human trust and kindness.

People are less likely to offer to help strangers on the street, smile at people we don’t know and accept people from different backgrounds. You may not realize it, but casual interactions are imperative for building social skills. They help us learn how to read emotions and initiate conversations. The use of smartphones has made people way less skilled at connecting with others.

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20. Smartphones Can Cause Cancer

As we mentioned before, radiation emitted by cell phones can cause cancer. This theory is considered controversial, but as smartphone use increases, it’s becoming more likely to occur. Heavy cell phone users have been shown to be at risk for developing salivary gland cancer as well as a type of brain tumor known as a glioma.

Radio waves emitted by cell phones along with the extreme rise in cellphone users have led many to believe that smartphones can cause cancer. It may be that not enough time has passed to conduct thorough studies on the connection between cell phone use and cancer. To avoid your risk of developing cancer from your cell phone, use a headset, earpiece, or speaker mode when talking on the phone.

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21. Arthritis from Texting and Scrolling

Continually holding your phone in your hand in the same position, day after day will most certainly lead to hand issues. Arthritis can creep up because of the repetition involved with using a phone. This can be especially apparent in your thumbs.

Gripping a smartphone tightly with your thumbs can cause tightness, tenderness, and pain at the base of the thumb where it meets the wrist. Pinching your thumb and forefinger on the screen, holding onto your phone, and using your phone to text can worsen arthritis in your thumb and hand. There is, unfortunately, no cure for this condition, but you can alleviate symptoms with medication, rest, and a splint.

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22. Insomnia and Smartphones

Staying up late looking at your phone is terrible for your sleep. The blue light can affect your eyes, and the mindless scrolling can disrupt restful sleep. Not to mention constant notifications that can wake you up throughout the night.

The blue light emitted from your phone can do more than interrupt your sleep. It messes with your hormones. The human body produces hormones while it sleeps. The hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin, which regulate appetite, are created at night. If your phone keeps waking you up and preventing a sound sleep, it can lead to weight gain and diabetes.

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23. Trigger Thumb

Trigger thumb occurs when your phone becomes stuck in a bend or makes a popping noise when you straighten it. This condition can be painful and lead to tendon and joint issues. When the sheath around your thumbs tendon becomes so thick the muscle can’t slide freely, trigger thumb develops.

This condition can be caused by a massive amount of texting. Also, holding onto your smartphone very tightly leads to trigger thumb. The best way to prevent this from happening is to limit the use of your smartphone. If you must be on your phone, lay it on a table while you scroll. You can also use your phone’s microphone function to write text messages and emails.

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24. Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

You’ve probably never heard of cubital tunnel syndrome, but it’s a condition that occurs when too much pressure is applied to the ulnar nerve, also known as the “funny bone.” If you find yourself frequently leaning on your elbows to text people or hold your phone to your ear, you may be at risk of developing it.

Cubital tunnel syndrome causes tingling and numbness in your ring and small fingers. You may also feel soreness inside your elbow and forearm. To prevent this painful condition, always cushion your elbows when leaning on hard surfaces. Avoid bending your elbow for long periods and be sure to move your arms in different directions every once in a while. You can even try wearing a splint at night to keep your arm straight.

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25. Smartphones Related to Mental Health

Being on the phone constantly can not only affect us physically but mentally as well. As smartphones have become more popular, mental health issues have arisen in young adults and teens. A lack of social interaction can be harmful to our mental health, mood, and self-esteem.

Studies show that spending time with people in person leads to happiness. Relying so much on smartphones for entertainment make people less likely to build social skills, setting them up for a sheltered life. It also leads many to only interact with people who share similar points of view instead of interacting with people with all kinds of opinions.

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26. Eye Issues as a Result of Smartphones

Staring at a smartphone screen all day and night can lead to eye problems. The blue light emits a shorter wavelength that makes your eyes tired quickly. This leads to pain and in some cases, eye damage.

The blue light that is given off when we use our smartphones can damage the cornea, which is the clear lens at the front of the eye. Studies have shown that lying in bed in the dark while using a smartphone can cause temporary blindness. Limit how much you use your mobile devices during the day and avoid using them at night. If you need to be on your phone a lot for work, take frequent breaks to give your eyes a rest. You may also be able to find special glasses to wear while you use a smartphone that protects your eyes from blue light.

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27. Smartphone Interference

For those that wear medical devices, be aware that smartphones can interfere with how they operate. Things like implanted defibrillators and pacemakers can be interrupted or stopped entirely by radio waves emitted by mobile devices. Even certain brands of hearing aids can be affected when you use a smartphone.

Smartphones can also cause issues at doctors offices and hospitals. If doctors and nurses have their phones on in their offices or operating rooms, that may pose a risk to their patients, especially those who wear medical devices. If any issues arise with your medical devices, contact your doctor for assistance.

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28. Health Care Mistakes

When you visit a doctor, you like to know that their focus is on you and your health. Seeing a doctor or nurse distracted by their phone is not a reassuring occurrence. This can lead to distrust between patients and their health care providers.

Additionally, smartphones can distract medical professionals while in the operating room. A recent study found that the number of mistakes made when treating a patient and diagnosing symptoms can go up by 12 percent from just one single interruption from a smartphone. If you feel that your doctor is unprofessional by checking their phone, say something. Your health needs are more important than a random notification.

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29. Smartphones Affect Relationships

Being distracted by your phone can ruin your connections with those around you. If you’re on the phone all the time, you let life pass you by. Having meaningful conversations without disruptions with those you love is essential.

Try to focus on your loved one when spending time with them instead of scrolling through your phone. Leave social media and texting for later and enjoy the moment. It will make your friends and family happier as well as improve your mood. Spending a little one-on-one time with someone without a smartphone to distract you is excellent for enhancing social skills and forming connections.

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30. Parenting in the Age of Smartphones

Another time to put down your smartphone is when you are spending time with your children. Kids are wired to obtain attention from their parents because that’s how they feel loved. When you neglect your kids to scroll through your phone, you can end up developing emotional issues in your children.

Parents who are physically present with their kids but have their attention elsewhere is a problem. This sends a message to children that they are not as crucial in their parent’s lives as a smartphone or tablet. Try to use your phone as little as possible when spending time with your kids. Take them outside to play and leave the phone behind.


31. Smartphones Can Cause Anxiety

Studies have shown that the more people use Facebook, the more their well-being declined. Using social media, especially on your smartphone, can lead to anxiety and depression. The FOMO, or fear of missing out, trend leads many to believe that their lives aren’t good enough compared to what they see online.

Smartphone use can evolve into a full-blown addiction. Known as “nomophobia,” the fear of being without a mobile phone is genuine and can damage a lot of people’s well-being. The stress of being away from an online world of social media, games, and internet friends can cause anxiety levels to rise. If you feel like your smartphone use has increased your anxiety, speak to a mental health professional.

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32. Smartphones and Healthcare

Even though smartphones can be seen as addictive and problematic, advanced technology has been used in health care settings. Smartphones and tablets are increasingly being used in hospitals and doctors offices. Research shows that in the United States, smartphone ownership among health care professionals is roughly 91 percent.

Mobile devices are great for communicating with patients and examining them from different rooms. They make it easy for doctors to share data and quickly reply to patients via email. Doctors can reach out to other health care professionals in different buildings or even different cities for a consultation.

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33. Using Smartphones for Diagnosing and Treating Medical Conditions

Smartphones and tablets can be used for checking vital signs and diagnosing conditions. Many devices can be outfitted with weight scales, pulse oximeters, and blood pressure cuffs, making it easy to track data. These tools are especially great for home health care nurses and doctors. By making the process of taking vitals easier, it gives nurses and doctors more time to focus on their patients.

Many medical devices connect with smartphone apps to track their health. There are sleep apnea machines, blood sugar trackers, and more tools that work seamlessly with smartphone technology. Additionally, these apps and devices make it easy for you to send medical information to your doctor.

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34. Detecting HIV

You may not realize it, but your smartphone could be used to detect serious diseases. HIV/AIDS affects more than 37 million people around the world. Early diagnosis of this disease can save lives, as access to antiretroviral medication can add ten years to someone’s life expectancy.

Researchers from the University of London have developed a disposable sensor that plugs into smartphones. This sensor holds particles that react to HIV. Within ten seconds of adding blood from a patient into the sensor’s channels, HIV can be detected. Results will be uploaded into a smartphone app and sent to a patient’s doctor.

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35. Diagnosing Malaria

Malaria is a life-threatening disease that can be hard to diagnose correctly. Many times health care workers in countries where malaria isn’t common won’t think to test for it. Additionally, they may not have enough experience to be able to make an accurate diagnosis.

A device created by researchers in the Netherlands utilizes a smartphone’s camera. A tiny glass ball is placed on the camera lens of a smartphone to transform it into a microscope by increasing the view over eight times. By being able to zoom in on a blood sample further, doctors can detect malaria, which shows up as a dark spot contained by a lighter ring.

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36. Identifying Parkinson’s Disease

Neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and ALS affect many people around the world. Over 10 million people live with Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s affects the nervous system and causes rigid limbs, slow movement, and muscle tremors.

Parkinson’s is most often identified after it has progressed. In Greece, researchers have created an app that works with fitness bands, smartwatches, and smartphones. This app tracks numerous biological clues that could indicate the beginning stages of Parkinson’s disease. Also, this app provides games to help improve a patient’s physical and emotional state as well as diet. Thanks to artificial intelligence present in smartphones, we may be able to identify the onset of several diseases.

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37. Eliminating Respiratory Disease

The World Health Organization has determined that one of the top causes of death for children around the world is a respiratory disease. This condition is caused by a wide variety of things, including genetics, environment, and pollution.

Physicians from Massachusetts General Hospital have developed a smartphone app designed to identify acute respiratory disease in children. This app works by analyzing how a child’s cough sounds. Experts believe that the app, called ResAppDx, may be able to replace CT scans, X-rays, blood and sputum tests, and spirometry. This innovative smartphone app is currently going through clinical trials to test its effectiveness and get it ready for mainstream usage.

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38. Measuring Blood Flow

When a patient is getting ready for a serious procedure like dialysis, bypass surgery, or a coronary angiogram, doctors must test how well blood flows through their arteries. This is commonly done using the Allen Test. With the Allen Test, the doctor will press two spots on the wrist to stop blood flow for a few seconds. After the pressure is released, they then monitor to see how long it takes to return color to the area.

A study found that a free smartphone app called Instant Heart Rate is more accurate at analyzing blood flow than the Allen Test. Using a smartphone’s camera lens and light, the app tracks the light reflection from a person’s finger. It also examines changes in color or brightness that indicate changes in pulse.

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39. Eye Exams

Going to the eye doctor can be a hassle. You’ve got to complete several stages of an exam, take a few tests, and then go through the process of choosing a pair of glasses. Thanks to smartphones, the process has gotten much more accessible.

Many companies in the United States offer online eye exams that utilize a computer or phone camera. The smartphone camera can figure out the right prescription, identify astigmatisms and colorblindness, as well as test light sensitivity. These tests are ideal for people between the ages of 18 and 39 looking to update their prescription. They don’t usually work for diagnosing cataracts or glaucoma.

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40. Preventing Suicide

The tenth leading cause of death in the world is suicide. Research shows that suicide is happening more and more each year. There are ways to determine who may be at risk of contemplating suicide, but it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint when someone attempts it. Research teams and Vanderbilt University and Harvard University are looking into ways that smartphones can help to identify risk factors for suicide and offer ways to step in to stop it.

In their studies, they are monitoring people who have a high risk of attempting suicide. They are asked to wear sensors to track activity and sleep levels as well as answer text messages sent to them throughout the day. The idea is that smartphone technology will be able to see patterns that humans are unable to. Then scientists can create programs designed to flag people who are at immediate risk of attempting suicide so they can get help.