Learning & Development

The Impact of Excessive Screen Time and How to Support Better Working Habits

It’s no surprise people are spending more time on screens. In fact, millions of Americans are exposed to excessive screen time every day (7+ hours), particularly those who work in office jobs.

While technology has many benefits, spending prolonged periods on computers and other digital devices requires the eyes to work harder up close, and this “heavy lifting” can cause vision problems in the long run–problems that may affect workers’ performance and ability to do all the things they need to do online.

As little as two hours of screen exposure per day can induce digital eye strain symptoms which can cause discomfort and take a toll on an individual’s quality of life. These symptoms—ranging from headaches, blurry vision, back and neck pain, poor sleeping, and dry eyes—can inhibit overall productivity at work due to difficulty concentrating on screen-based tasks. Any uncorrected eye errors, like being far-sighted in one or both eyes, will also be exacerbated with digital device use.

Impact of Excessive Screen Time

Approximately 104 million people are exposed to excessive screen time, with a 20% increase in just the past ten years, heightening the risk of screen-related issues. Last year alone, these symptoms resulted in $151 billion in costs to health systems, productivity, and wellbeing, according to a research report by the American Optometric Association (AOA) examining the implications of excessive unmanaged screen time among American workers.

Of the $151 billion incurred per year, the biggest cost was attributed to productivity losses, estimated at $86.3 billion per year. In a typical month, nearly 74% employed Americans with eye conditions say their health problems have an effect on their work and 3 in 5 (57%) miss work because of their symptoms.

The good news? The effects and symptoms caused by excessive screen time could be mitigated with responsible screen time practices and annual visits to a doctor of optometry.

Eye and vision health are so important to everything we do—in our jobs and in our lives. Unfortunately, not enough people are giving their eye health the attention it deserves. As national rates of screen time continue to rise, so does our need to look at the impact this has not only on our eyes, but our ability to work and overall wellness. That’s why it’s important to instill healthy eye habits, including scheduling annual comprehensive eye exams with an AOA doctor of optometry before symptoms worsen or significant problems arise.

Supporting Better Work Habits

Amid today’s digital age in which screen exposure is virtually inescapable, it’s more important than ever to educate people who spend significant hours on screens during their workday about prioritizing their eye health, the impact of unmanaged excessive screen time, and the importance of annual in-person comprehensive eye exams.

According to the AOA report, if the average American who is exposed to excessive screen time visited an optometrist once per year, they could save up to $1,920 each year. For businesses, this could lead to greater workforce productivity, higher employee quality of life, as well as significant cost savings. As a gateway and key influencer when it comes to health care options, employers play a vital role in educating workers about their vision benefits and the essentialness of regular eye care.

No matter the nature of the work—it is critical for everyone to see a doctor of optometry in person every year to maintain optimal eye health. In-person, comprehensive eye exams are the only medically recognized standard to assure precise and healthy vision care, allowing optometrists to detect 270+ serious health conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases, and cancers. The earlier a vision problem is detected, the more effective the treatment will be. This may include prescription glasses specifically designed for screen time, education on digital device use, setup and strategies unique to an individual’s needs, and medication management including eye drops.

Dr. Ronald Benner, OD and President of the American Optometric Association (AOA). The AOA offers tips and guidance to help create better, sustainable habits for organizations’ most valuable asset—their employees. To learn more, visit AOA.org/EyeDeserveMore.

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