The new strain on 20-somethings (and how to deal with it)

How many hours do you spend on your computer and phone every day? Even if you’re not much of a social media person, it can be unavoidable if you work on a computer. Tally ’em up, and it may be a little bit frightening, TBH.

But you’re not alone: many young people spend a ton of their waking hours staring at digital screens. In fact, Mashable reports about 4 in 10 millennials spend about 9 hours on digital devices every single day. Yeesh.

Hey, we at HG don’t have a problem with social media and staying connected, and we certainly don’t have a problem with working for a living (girl’s gotta eat, right?). But if you spend a lot of time with your eyes locked on a screen, and your eyes tend to feel dry and itchy, watch out: you could be suffering from “digital eye strain,” according to a recent study from the Vision Council. According to their research, 68% of millennials (yeah, us) suffer from “digital eye strain” or DES. And DES can occur after a mere two hours of using these devices, which makes 8 or 9 hours pretty darn concerning.

What makes the digital stuff so much worse than, say, reading a book or looking at physical paperwork? We’ll give you the down-low: staring at a glowing display isn’t exactly something that we have been hardwired to do, since it’s not something that would occur in nature. And the light emitted from these displays is blue light—also known as high-energy visible, or HEV, light, according to the study. This kind of light can penetrate the eye deeper than UV light, which can damage the retina.

Also, there’s the fact that a lot of print on these screens can be smaller and blurrier, causing you to strain your eyes—AND you blink less when you’re looking at screens (blinking is essential to prevent dryness or irritation, according to the report). All of this is a formula for some bad eye health, unfortunately. . . and if your eyes tend to be dry, red, or watering, or your vision has been getting a little bit blurry, you’re probably already experiencing the effects of DES. Another common symptom: headaches from squinting and focusing too much. The symptoms can even radiate into your neck and back.

So enough of the scary stuff: what can we do to prevent digital eye strain, other than ditching our devices (which, let’s be real, isn’t gonna happen)? We’ve got your back (and neck, and eyes):

Wear lenses that block blue light

Okay, this one might be a bit too much work for some, but if you’re serious about protecting yourself from the symptoms of digital eye strain, the study recommends that you purchase glasses that “absorb specific wavelengths of high-energy blue light and limit penetration into the retina.” Hey, we bet you could totally rock them.

Increase the text size on your devices

This is something that a lot of older people have to do, but it’s good for people in their 20s, too—the closer you have to hold your devices to your eyes, the more you have to strain. It’s good to try to keep your displays at least one foot away from your face.

Use the 20-20-20 rule

If you look at devices for hours at a time, get yourself in the habit of this simple rule: every 20 minutes, look away from your screen for 20 seconds at something that’s 20 feet away. This can greatly prevent symptoms of digital eye strain, according to the study. Set a timer on your phone to get yourself in the habit.

Or, simply take a walking break for a couple minutes every now and then—it’s not so good for you to be sitting all that time, anyway!

Adjust your display settings 

Try to keep the brightness level of your screen at the same brightness as the rest of the room. The report suggests to lessen the overhead lighting so it’s not competing with your device, and to consider changing the background color from bright white to cool gray. It also helps to adjust the contrast of your screen so it’s not quite so harsh on your peepers.

Attach a glare-reducing filter to your screens

A big problem with devices is the glare, and it often makes us have to turn up the brightness levels to counteract it. A glare reduction filter will help big time. Also, make sure your screen is always clean to counteract glare.

Now, take that 20 second break. You’ve already been looking at your screen too long, amirite?

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