A study warned that moderate smartphone use for three hours a day significantly increases the risk of being overweight or obese in adolescents. Researchers from Korea University looked for associations between smartphone use and weight gain and health-related behaviors among nearly 53,000 adolescents.
Researchers have found that even spending two hours a day online on a device is linked to unhealthy habits such as eating more junk food and cutting back on fruits and vegetables.
The team said time spent in front of screens may pave the way to obesity through methods such as disrupted sleep, exposure to food marketing and eating while online.
Child obesity rates are increasing in many countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States and South Korea, and adolescents who are overweight or obese are more likely to become obese as adults, which increases the risk of health complications including diabetes and heart disease.
“Previous studies have shown that watching television is an important factor that increases the risk of obesity in children and adolescents,” said researcher and epidemiologist Hana Oh of Korea University in Seoul.
“Not much is known about the effects of recent screen time such as smartphone use on diet and obesity,” she added.
“Our data suggests that both smartphone use time and type of content may independently influence adolescents’ diet and obesity,” she said.
Professor Oh and her colleagues analyzed data from more than 53,000 adolescents aged 12-18, collected through the Web-based Survey of Youth Behaviors in Korea.
The team compared respondents’ smartphone use with how well they engaged in both healthy habits such as eating fruits and vegetables, as well as unhealthy behaviors such as skipping breakfast or eating junk and fast food.
The team also took into account variables such as socioeconomic status known to influence obesity rates and smartphone ownership.