Mental health takes a hit as people hooked to screens during pandemic

Experts say long screen time weakens brain’s ability to process information & control thoughts.

Published: 07th July 2021 08:37 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th July 2021 08:37 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  Owing to several days of isolation and confinement in houses due to the pandemic-induced lockdown, many are increasingly addicted to long screen time. Apart from spending time on mobile phone or laptops for office work or attending virtual classes, experts believe, people are becoming habituated to spending more time on screen either browsing random things, playing games or watching videos on OTT platforms.

“They tend to just look at the total amount of time, which is flawed because screen time is different. For example, there is an educational screen time and besides it there is recreational screen time. Also, there is a screen time that we use for communicating with people. It is not the absolute amount of screen time that is important but the kind of activity you are engaged in,” said Dr Yatan Balhara from psychology department, AIIMS.

Dr Balhara added that if the screen time is increased because of education or work-related issues, it does not impact the mental well-being but if there is increase in engagement with sedentary screen, which means watching videos, reading news, just looking at social media and responding to it, then the mental well-being goes down. “Excessive screen time weakens the brain’s ability to process information and control thoughts.

Anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances and irritability can be attributed to increased screen time. In addition, isolation and lower threshold of patience are other behavioural changes noted among people,” stated Dr Sandeep Vohra, senior consultant, mental health & psychiatry, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals. Dr Balhara noted that if a particular behavioral pattern develops and gets ingrained, then it becomes difficult to come out of it.

“The work from home culture will go down and people will have to go to office. So, they will have to make changes in their routine. And one might find it hard to adapt to that. Also, since people are spending longer time on social media, they might struggle later to strike a balance between personal and online world.”

What is the ideal duration to spend on screen?

  • For professional use, regular interval breaks of 15-20 mins
  • Non-professional use should not be more than 2-3 hours per day

What complications can Arise with excessive use of mobile phones?

  • Headaches, several eye problems, muscle aches, decreased attention, shortness of temper, sleep disorders and depression. Long-term effects of increased screen time can include neurological problems

How to deal with such complications?

  • Planning a schedule for screen time as well as physical activities separately
  • Ensuring that the overhead lighting is not very bright, to avoid any glare on the screen harming the eyes
  • Ensure to take breaks every 15-20 minutes
  • Keep the screen 20 to 24 inches from your eye level and adjust the display settings of your device to reduce eye strain and fatigue

(As provided by Dr Sandeep Vohra, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals)


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