GROWING HEALTH CONCERNS OF IT PROFESSIONALS

Growing health concerns of IT professionals

INTRODUCTION

IT or information technology is one of the most lucrative professional field in India.  IT has created a new world of technology and became a driving force in many organizations.  IT professionals work towards developing new software, fixing the computer systems to meet the demands of different sectors like business, education, transportation and many more. This technology allows us to be productive in this new digital world.

It would have never been possible to transit from conventional ways to digital in all the sectors, without the innovation of IT workers. While giving their best in job, the biggest challenge an IT professional face is occupational health implications. Compared to all other Profession, IT professionals have more health issues. There are a number of studies that show that IT workers work on stake of their health. IT professional normally have a packed schedule, frequent travel, late hours shifts and the stress of meeting their own ambitious goals. Between monitoring networks, configuring applications, and managing technology projects, IT professionals spend massive amounts of time in front of the computer screen. So even though the IT field is tempting, it has consequences on the employee health.

We are just making an attempt to give insight to the different health issues being faced by the IT Professional of today. The aim of this information is to highlight that one need to prioritize health, as “A healthy employee can contribute to build a healthier company” and also healthy and happy workers are the most productive workers.

The major occupation related health problem an IT professional face can be categorized as follows:

  1. Visual problems

Excessive focus

Blinking less than normal

Blue light and the retina

Computer vision syndrome

  1. Musculoskeletal disorders

Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI)

Joints (Back and neck, spinal structure damage)

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  1. Anxiety and stress related problems

Blood Sugar / Diabetes

      Heart disease

      Dyslipidemia

      Insomnia

     Obesity

VISUAL PROBLEMS

AS PER THE MED INDIA RESEARCH NEWS, OPHTHALMOLOGIST FOUND THAT 80% OF THE PEOPLE HAVING EYE PROBLEM ARE IT PROFESSIONALS.

The digital eye strain is a discomfort felt by many individuals after spending a few hours in front of a digital screen like desktop, computers, laptops, tablets and smart phones. This problem is rising among the IT professionals. The constant exposure of technology leads to many eye problems like digital eye strain, dry and irritated eyes, blurred vision, and eye fatigue.

Impact on eyes, this is more or less the foundation of all digital devices eye-related problems. It is observed that while using laptops, computers or any digital device focus is usually very intense. Spending hours together looking at a brightly illuminated screen, it is sure to have eye problems sooner or later. Eye problems caused due to the computer screen radiation can result into different eye problems. Starting from problems in vision to dry eyes. These are very common particularly amongst the software / IT professionals. The excessive focus is harmful to eyes in many ways such as blinking eyes less than normal, muscular degradation of the eyes, affects the retina, computer vision syndrome, Insomnia. Blinking is the eyes way of lubricating (by spreading a layer of tear over the eye). Not blinking frequently enough can cause you to have sore eyes, blurry vision and so on.

Computer vision syndrome: Signs of computer vision syndrome include; headaches, dry eye, and blurred vision, sensitivity to light, eye strain, itchy or watery eyes. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, computer vision syndrome affects around 90% of the people who spend three hours or more a day at a computer.

A study in Chennai shows 69.3%p prevalence of Computer Vision Syndrome among Information Technology Professionals.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD)

ACCORDING TO STUDY REPORTED IN JOURNAL OF PHARM BIO ALLIED SCIENCE, AROUND 56% OF IT PROFESSIONAL HAD MUSCULOSKELETAL SYMPTOMS.

Musculoskeletal disorders are short or long-term injuries to the nerves, tendons, muscles and the supporting structures of the body, such as bones and ligaments. IT professionals are exposed to repetitive tasks, prolonged improper postures, long work hours, which leads to MSD. Musculoskeletal disorder affects the function of joints, spine, Muscles, and bone. Person experiences health issues like osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, back and neck pain, sarcopenia, osteoporosis, fragility, fractures, traumatic fractures.

Some of the most common symptoms of MSDs are: Stiffness, weakness and pain, decreased range of motion, limiting mobility, dexterity and functional abilities, joint deformity, inflammation.

Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI):

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is another health issue faced by IT professional, it occur from repeated physical movements doing damage to tendons, nerves, muscles, and other soft tissues in upper extremity (hands, arms, or shoulders) associated with repetitive tasks and awkward positions. It is an overuse syndrome.

Joints:

Back and neck pain are very common amongst the people who spend more than 10 hours a day in front of the computer. If proper care is not taken right in time, the pain can change to spondylitis or even something more serious.

Most people get the vitamin D deficiency working indoors handling IT concerns and not getting sufficient exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a variety of health problems, including bone diseases, multiple sclerosis, and certain cancers.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:

A common problem among IT professional / computer users, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the major nerve in the wrist becomes compressed after continual physical stress. The condition starts gradually, with symptoms such as burning or tingling in the hand, but it can eventually lead to severe pain and decreased wrist mobility.

ANXIETY, STRESS AND INSOMNIA

(AS PER A STUDY DONE ON INDIAN IT PROFESSIONALS WORKING FOR 2 YEARS, REVEALS THAT 54% HAD PROBLEM OF DEPRESSION, ANXIETY AND INSOMNIA)

There is no denying the fact that the job of an IT professional is one of the most demanding and challenging. High work pressure coupled with responsibilities, work efficiently to build up the stress factor. Research says stress and anxiety disrupts the natural hormonal balance2 of the body which can be the primary reason for mood swings and even depression, Stress affects the body in the worst possible ways, and can invite the serious conditions like high blood pressure and blood sugar and Immunity

British scientists discovered a link between computer usage and depression4.IT workers typically manage crises and disaster recovery, which can be extremely stressful. In addition to causing mood swings and anxiety, recurring stress can lead to depression.

Blood Sugar / Diabetes:                                                                               

When stressed, the body prepares itself by ensuring that enough sugar or energy is readily available. Insulin levels fall, glucagon and epinephrine (adrenaline) levels rise and more glucose is released from the liver. At the same time, growth hormone and cortisol levels rise; this causes body tissues (muscle and fat) to be less sensitive to insulin. As a result, more glucose is available in the blood stream.

Heart disease:

Studies have shown a heightened risk of heart disease among those people who spend most of their days sitting. According to a study “men who reported more than 23 hours a week of sedentary activity had a 64 percent greater risk of dying from heart disease than those who reported less than 11 hours a week of sedentary activity.” For IT professionals who spend most of their time sitting in front of a computer, this should sound an alarm. The increase in cholesterol in IT professionals could be due to improper food timing, junk food, lack of motion and exercises. Improper breathing, chronic constipation, and poor blood circulation can also cause this issue.

Statistics shows, 2 out of 3 IT Professionals are at risk of diabetes and heart disease5: A year-long study carried out by the diabetes unit at KEM hospital and on-site healthcare providers ‘Just for Hearts’ have found that 61% participants had more than three risk factors in terms of excessive body weight, high waist circumference, high cholesterol, high blood pressure among others that increase their likelihood of developing diabetes.

Insomnia:

Many IT workers use their electronic devices late into the evening. But staring at an illuminated screen before bedtime can limit the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that helps you fall asleep. Chronic insomnia can lead to other health problems.

Obesity:

 (According to study reported in JOURNAL OF PHARM BIO ALLIED SCIENCE, around 40% of IT professional found obese)

Obesity is caused mainly because of inadequate physical activity, as that cause imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended

Dyslipidemia

 (Study done on IT professionals revealed that 36% had dyslipidemia)

Dyslipidemia is a condition in which the lipids (fats) levels are abnormally high in blood. This can lead to cardiovascular diseases.

Thrombosis:

Deep-vein thrombosis is the formation of blood clots, which can travel to the brain and lungs, causing strokes, pulmonary embolisms, and other urgent health conditions. The term e thrombosis was recently coined, referring to the long hours and sedentary lifestyle of many computer users and IT professionals.

CANCER:

 In addition to thrombosis and heart disease, recent medical research has found a link between physical inactivity and certain cancers, particularly breast and colon cancer.

Sedentary lifestyle of IT professionals limits physical activity which has many biological effects on the body, some of which have been proposed to explain associations with specific cancers. These include:

  • Lowering the levels of sex hormones such as estrogen and preventing increase of insulin in blood , these factors have been associated with cancer development and progression (breast ,colon)
  • Improves digestion and decreases the exposure of the gastrointestinal tract to possible carcinogens.

Conclusion

As innovations and computer capacities increase the influence of technology will continue to grow in the coming years at an increasing rate. As technology advances, there is also increased stress and other health related issues that is associated with it.

There is lot of modern medicine available for each type of health problem mentioned here, but before we make a decision to go for the modern medication, we need to understand the limitations of the same. The modern drugs are effective as long as we take them; they also have their own side effects. Mostly the modern medicines suppress the symptoms rather curing them completely from the root cause. This medicine science works on organ /body part specific.

From this article, you can understand that most of the health issues are interrelated and also influenced by mental wellness, so an approach of considering every part of body as a different section will not be really helpful. One has to look for a holistic approach, where the body wellness means optimal wellness at physical, mental and spiritual level. Holistic healing makes the person experience the wellness at a deeper level.

One of such holistic approach is to believe in our most ancient medicine system i.e. Ayurveda.  It takes care of complete wellness of an individual at three levels: physical, mental and spiritual. It works on treating and preventing the occurrence of disease. The medicines are mostly derived from natural source like herbs, flowers, fruit, therefore there are no side effects. The Herbal Supplements provide the relief from stress nourishes the body and enhances mental ability too.

GIVE A THOUGHT TO PREVENTIVE WELLNESS.

Author

Anand Bafna

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