More time with the computer and TV could mean more back pain and headaches for teens


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Teens and screens are often inseparable, but there could be a price to pay for all that time spent in front of the television and computer. A new study finds that, for adolescents, there may be an association between screen time and back pain and headaches.

The study included 31,022 teens from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Greenland and Norway who were part of the Health Behavior in School-Aged Children study. Teens reported how much time they spent playing computer-based or television-based games, how much time they spent on the computer and how much time they spent watching TV. They were also asked about the frequency of headaches, backaches and bouts of feeling low.


Researchers found a consistent but weak link between boys who reported having backaches weekly and those who said they spent more time using computers, watching television and playing computer games. For girls, a link was found between those who had headaches and who also said they spent more time on the computer and watching TV. The results held even when the researchers adjusted for levels of physical activity.

The study’s authors think that the link between back and head pain and screen time might not be related to the kind of screen activity the teens were engaged in, but to the amount of time they spent doing it and how they sat or stood while screen-engaged.

‘A rising prevalence of physical complaints such as back pain, neck and shoulder pain and headache has been reported for adolescent populations,’ Torbjorn Torsheim, the lead author of the study, said in a news release. ‘Parallel to this, adolescents are spending an increasing amount of time on screen-based activities, such as TV, computer games or other types of computer-based entertainment.’

Copious amounts of screen time have also been associated with obesity in young people, as well as lower amounts of muscular fitness. Despite the findings in this study, the authors noted that longer studies are needed to better examine the relationship between time spent on computers and watching TV and physical ailments.

The study was released Tuesday in the journal BMC Public Health.

-- Jeannine Stein