10 Years of Using a Cell Phone – ADD, Hunchback, Insomnia, Cell Addiction

Husain Sumra profile image October 6, 2016 | 7 min read

Do you remember getting your first cell phone? Whether you were 10 years old or 50 years old, this technological moment was also the beginning of a series of psychological and physical changes.

A telephone is necessary, both for safety and connection. But in a short time, our phone habits have morphed from the head tilt of cradling a wall phone handset to the forward slouch of hunching over our smartphones.




Smartphone ownership is rapidly increasing:

  • The first iPhone was released in 2007.
  • In 2011, 35% of U.S. adults owned a smartphone.
  • By 2015, smartphone ownership increased to 68% of U.S. adults.

These devices have changed our habits and behaviors:

  • 52% of smartphone owners check their phones at least once an hour.
  • 46% of smartphone owners say they couldn’t live without it.
  • 50% of teens feel they are addicted to their mobile devices.

Smartphone ownership brings with it an array of scientifically proven psychological and physiological effects that increase over time and with intensity of usage.


Psychological Effects

  1. Increased convenience but also increased availability: At first, you may notice the benefits of connectivity, like the convenience of being able to look up info on a restaurant or check in with your family. In fact, 17% of smartphone owners cite convenience as the best thing about their phone. Yet this convenience comes at a cost. Being constantly available is cited as the worst thing about their phone by 24% of owners. Because when your boss calls your cell while you’re at happy hour, that voicemail is not going to wait until Monday morning.
  2. Socially connected but lacking intimacy and closeness: The apps on our smartphones keep us connected to each other, but researchers are noticing that the quality of our interactions are changing. Rather than focusing on face-to-face engagement, cell phones at social gatherings hurt the conversation and atmosphere, according to 82% of adults. Cell phones have also become an avoidance tool, with 23% of cell phone owners admitting to using their phone in public spaces to avoid interacting with others.
  3. Altered experience of life: With high-quality cameras in our pockets, there is an instinct to catch the exciting moments of our lives. Whether it’s to remember a baby’s first word or to grab a selfie at that concert for an epic social media post, we are taking more and more photos. There are 1.8 billion digital images uploaded every single day. That’s 657 billion photos in one year. The trend to capture life moments is changing how we experience them, and research has identified that it is also changing how we remember those captured moments.
  4. Shorter attention span than a goldfish: Humans have shown a sharp decline in attention span over a relatively short period of time. Having had a 12-second attention span in 2000, we have since declined to an 8-second attention span as of 2016. A goldfish’s attention span is 9 seconds, making it more focused than the average human.
  5. Heightened sense of time pressure: Being constantly available has changed our perceptions of time. With near-constant alerts from apps, emails, text messages and social media, the speed of life seems to be quickening its pace, and the urge to respond to these notifications is interfering with offline activities.
  6. Decreased happiness: Studies have found that frequent cell phone use correlates with overall lower levels of happiness. Researchers saw that limiting students’ cell phones resulted in dramatic changes in just two to three weeks, with subjects smiling more readily at the end of the experiment.
  7. Addiction: Researchers are seeing similarities between heavy cell phone use and drug or alcohol addiction. In terms of brain activity, message notifications evoke a similar dopamine spike that leaves you wanting more. This compulsive behavior is evident in that 74% of people text while driving, even though 98% believe it’s dangerous.
  8. Dependency: Being separated from one’s devices can cause desperation and panic. The majority of adults have a fear of losing their phone, and 66% suffer from nomophobia, or “no mobile phone phobia.”
  9. Trapped by technology: Psychologists are seeing an emergence of “techno-trapped persons” who avoid in-person contact, carry themselves differently, fidget and are uncomfortable in their bodies. Excessive cell phone use directly impacts psychological wellbeing and has prompted many to start taking technology sabbaticals or digital detoxes so as to promote a more balanced relationship with technology and preserve mental health.


Physical Effects

  1. Digital Eye Strain: Americans spend on average 4.7 hours looking at their phones each day — that’s about 30% of our time awake. With symptoms including dry, irritated eyes and blurred vision, digital eye strain impacts 65% of Americans.
  2. “Text Neck”: Visualize this posture: Your head drops forward and your shoulders round or lift towards your ears. After remaining too long in this texting position, you start to feel spasms and cramps in your neck and shoulder muscles. The average number of text messages sent per month has increased from 62 messages in 2005 (back when you had three letters to a number key) to 491 messages per month in 2014. We’re texting a lot, and “text neck” has been identified as a repetitive strain injury that results from hunching over smartphones.
  3. Hand pain: There has been an increasing occurrence of hand injuries, and not the kind you get from smashing your thumb with a hammer. Curling our hands around smartphones and touch typing on screens for extended lengths of time causes inflammation, aching, cramping and tendonitis.
  4. Slouching: More than just neck pain, the posture of cell phone use affects the entire spine. Back pain is also linked to hunching over a cell phone, and this bad posture has been found to alter our mood, memory and behavior as well.
  5. Headaches: Whether it’s a dull ache at the end of the day or the sharp onset of a migraine, long hours of staring at screens leads to the known headache triggers of exhaustion, lack of circulation and eye strain.
  6. Deadly consequences: One in four car accidents are a result of cell phone use. The majority of these, 81%, occur while drivers are talking on the phone either with handheld or hands-free devices. The other 19% of crashes are from texting.
  7. Ghost phone:  Have you ever thought your phone was ringing or vibrating, only to discover that you merely imagined it? Phantom phone vibration was felt by 90% of surveyed U.S. college students, making it a very common technological hallucination.
  8. Disrupted sleep: With 68% of people sleeping with their phone next to their bed, late-night cell phone use has been known to cause people to have a harder time falling asleep. Cell phone use is disrupting natural circadian rhythms and sleep cycles, which causes more harm than just a recurring tiredness. It increases the risk for diabetes, cancer and obesity.



Because the rapid adoption of cell phone technology has altered human behavior so quickly, researchers are still discovering the physical and psychological impacts.

Current studies demonstrate overwhelming evidence of the significant impact of cell phone overuse. Although withdrawal may be difficult, putting down the screen clearly results in benefits like living a healthier and happier life.


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