A prospective longitudinal study of mobile touch screen device use and musculoskeletal symptoms and visual health in adolescents

Siao Hui Toh*, Pieter Coenen, Erin K. Howie, Anne J. Smith, Swarup Mukherjee, David A. Mackey, Leon M. Straker

*Corresponding author for this work

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This study aimed to examine prospective associations of mobile touch screen device (i.e. smartphone, tablet) use and patterns of use with musculoskeletal symptoms and visual health among adolescents. A representative sample of 1691 adolescents in Singapore (51% girls; 10–19 years) completed an online questionnaire at baseline and one-year follow-up. After adjusting for potential confounders, prospective associations were found between baseline smartphone use and follow-up neck/shoulder (OR = 1.61(95%CI = 1.06–2.44)) and low back (OR = 1.86(1.10–3.14)) symptoms; tablet use was also associated with neck/shoulder, low back and arms symptoms (OR = 1.33(1.04–1.71)to1.52(1.18–1.95)). No associations were observed between the duration of smartphone/tablet use and symptoms. Baseline patterns of use (bout length, certain types of activities, multitasking) were associated with follow-up musculoskeletal symptoms. Smartphone/tablet use was not related to visual outcomes (visual symptoms, wearing glasses/contact lenses, myopia) at follow-up. These findings suggest that patterns of smartphone/tablet use (though not the duration of use) can pose a prospective risk for musculoskeletal symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103028
JournalApplied Ergonomics
Publication statusPublished - May 2020

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