Could screen time accelerate your aging? New study suggests yes

Could screen time accelerate your aging? New study suggests yes

Stock photo of a woman using a computer.

Last year, after mounting pressure to address the impact of screen time on young users, Apple released a new feature that tracks how long users look at their phone each day. (Although, many teens have found loopholes to circumvent the monitoring system sometimes used by parents).

But, of course, it's not just young people who are spending oodles of hours in front of a screen.

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Nearly 30% of adults in the United States say they are online "almost constantly," according to a Pew Research Center poll. And another Pew study reported screen time was increasing among adults over 60.

The potential drawbacks of too much screen time are well-documented: Studies have linked it to depressive symptoms for adolescents and overall sleep disruption.

In addition, too much exposure to blue light — the wavelengths emitted from phones and computer screens — may also be causing accelerated aging, even if you're not looking directly at it, a new study suggests.

The study, published Thursday in “Aging and Mechanisms of Disease,” found that blue light could be damaging to cells in the brain, as well as the eyes.

The researchers looked at how fruit flies responded to 12 hours of exposure to blue LED light. In the study, the flies that were exposed to 12 hours of light, followed by 12 hours of darkness did not live as long as those kept away from the blue light all together.

Exposure to blue light also affected the flies’ ability to conduct common behaviors, such as climbing walls. Some flies used in the experiment were eyeless and even those subjects had brain damage after being exposed to the light.

“It was very clear cut that although light without blue slightly shortened their lifespan, just blue light alone shortened their lifespan very dramatically," researcher Jaga Giebultowicz said.

Fruit flies are frequently used in similar studies because of their cellular makeup and development is similar to humans and other animals.

"And with the prevalent use of LED lighting and device displays, humans are subjected to increasing amounts of light in the blue spectrum since commonly used LEDs emit a high fraction of blue light,” Giebultowicz said.

In order to curb risk, the researchers suggest that people get plenty of exposure to natural light, which is important for maintaining the body’s natural circadian rhythm.

"As science looks for ways to help people be healthier as they live longer, designing a healthier spectrum of light might be a possibility, not just in terms of sleeping better but in terms of overall health,” researcher Eileen Chow said.

In addition to getting outside for some Vitamin D, researchers also suggest people wear glasses with blue light protection when looking at screens and check the settings on devices to block blue light emissions.