According to the James studyExternal link on youth media use and health published on Tuesday, about one fifth of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 have trouble sleeping. A similar portion reports psychological issues including concentration problems or anxiety.
Although nine out of ten youth say that they feel healthy, over half (53%) complain that they are tired on a regular basis (daily or a few times per week). Backaches and headaches are also common ailments especially among girls with 23% suffering from headaches on a regular basis compared to 8% of boys.
The researchers say there may be a connection between some forms of online media use and health ailments, particularly when it comes to time spent on the internet and frequency of physical problems.
“Those who use screen media intensively often move less and sit for long periods in unfavorable positions or undertake repetitive movements that can lead to back and neck pain or eye problems,” says media psychologist Gregor Waller.
The study also found signs that intensive use of social networks could also be related to psychological complaints and sleep problems. The authors note that it is not just the mere time spent online but the content itself that affects youth physical and mental health.
Waller cautions though that as it is a cross-sectional study, cause and effect cannot be clearly demonstrated. “It may be that media use causes health problems – or vice versa, that health affects media use.”
The James report, released every two years by the Zurich University of Applied Sciences and Swisscom, measures the relationship between media use and the health of 1,000 adolescents in Switzerland.