Cell phones have been around since the 1980s, but it has only been in the past couple of decades that they have become ubiquitous. Beginning in this decade, the cell phone gave way to the smartphone, connecting millions of people around the world to the internet without a computer. As of 2018, there were around 1.56 smartphone sales worldwide. Another startling statistic was that in 2018, 52.2% of all website traffic worldwide was generated through smartphones. About 1 out of every 3 people globally owns a smartphone. While smartphones have undoubtedly made us more connected than ever, they come at a cost to health, as NBC News reports.
Smartphone users who are walking while distracted are tripping, falling, and hurting their heads and necks more often. A new analysis found that such injuries have increased “steeply” over the past 20 years. While most of the injuries were minor, some involved serious facial lacerations and traumatic brain injuries.
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A study published Thursday in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery is thought to be the first such study taking a look at the role smartphones are playing in these kinds of injuries. Dr. Boris Paskhover, the lead author of the paper, began researching the statistics after seeing numerous patients with broken jaws or facial wounds who told him they fell while distracted by their cell phones.
According to the study, from January 1998 to December 2017, there were 2,501 patients who went to 100 different hospitals for such injuries. When scaled up to a national level, it is estimated that about 76,000 people have had injuries related to falling while looking at their smartphones. The rate began increasing sharply in 2007, the year the first iPhone was released. It was followed by a much steeper increase that peaked in 2016.
Smartphone users aged 13 to 29 accounted for almost 40% of the injuries.