Teens who spend hours on the Internet may be at risk for high blood pressure and weight gain, researchers say.
Researchers found that teens who spent at least 14 hours a week on the Internet had elevated blood pressure. Of the 134 teens described by researchers as heavy Internet users, 26 had elevated blood pressure.
This is believed to be the first study showing a link between time spent on the Internet and high blood pressure. The findings add to growing research that has shown an association between heavy Internet use and other health risks like addiction, anxiety, depression, obesity and social isolation, researchers said. The study was published in the Journal of School Nursing.
“Using the Internet is part of our daily life but it shouldn’t consume us. In our study, teens considered heavy Internet users were on the Internet an average of 25 hours a week,” said Andrea Cassidy-Bushrow, a researcher at Henry Ford’s Department of Public Health Sciences.
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“It’s important that young people take regular breaks from their computer or smartphone, and engage in some form of physical activity. I recommend to parents they limit their children’s’ time at home on the Internet. I think two hours a day, five days a week is good rule of thumb,” Cassidy-Bushrow said.
Researchers analysed data compiled from 335 teens ages 14-17 enrolled in the study including a blood pressure reading taken during a physical exam. Participants also completed a 55-question survey of their Internet use during the week leading up to their physical exam. Questions ranged from how they spent their time on the Internet and their number of email addresses to time spent on the Internet daily and for what purpose. For their study, researchers defined Internet use as visiting websites, emailing, instant messaging, playing games, doing homework, shopping, downloading software and creating or maintaining Web pages.
The study also found that teens spent on average 15 hours a week on the Internet at either school or home and 39 per cent of girls were heavy Internet users compared to 43 per cent of boys.
Researchers found that 43 per cent of heavy Internet users were considered overweight compared to 26 per cent of light Internet users.