Smartphones have been linked to hypertension after a study identified a link between mobile phone usage and an increased risk of high blood pressure.
The research, published in the European Heart Journal – Digital Health and conducted by Professor Xianhui Qin of Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, discovered that mobile phone use for 30 minutes or more per week was associated with a 12 per cent higher chance of hypertension compared to individuals who spent fewer than 30 minutes on calls.
Around 72 per cent of the global population aged 10 years and above own a mobile phone. Approximately 1.3 billion adults worldwide aged 30-79 years have hypertension.
Hypertension is a significant risk factor for heart attacks and strokes, and is one of the world’s leading causes of premature death.
Past research on the correlation between mobile phone usage and blood pressure was considered inconclusive due to the inclusion of various factors such as calls, texts, gaming, and more.
This study focused specifically on the relationship between mobile phone calls and the development of hypertension. It did so using data from the UK Biobank, which included 212,046 participants aged between 37 and 73 years who did not have hypertension at the beginning of the study.
A self-reported touchscreen questionnaire was used to collect information on mobile phone usage. Users were asked to report on making or receiving calls, years of usage, hours spent on calls per week, and the use of hands-free devices or speakerphones.
Mobile phone users were defined as participants who used a mobile phone at least once every week for making or receiving calls.
The researchers considered various potential confounding factors such as age, sex, body mass index, race, deprivation, family history of hypertension, education, smoking status, blood pressure, blood lipids, inflammation, blood glucose, kidney function, and the use of medications to lower cholesterol or blood glucose levels.
Over a median follow-up period of 12 years, 13,984 individuals (7 per cent of the total sample) developed hypertension. Mobile phone users were found to have a 7 per cent higher risk of hypertension compared to non-users.
The study results indicated that participants who spent fewer than five minutes per week making or receiving mobile phone calls had a lower risk of developing hypertension compared to those who spent more time on the phone.
It did not find any significant association between years of mobile phone use, or the use of hands-free devices/speakerphone, and the development of hypertension.
Prof. Qin’s study also examined the link between phone usage and hypertension based on participants’ genetic risk of developing high blood pressure.
Those with a high genetic risk were at the greatest risk of developing hypertension if they spent at least 30 minutes per week on their mobile phones. They had a 33 per cent higher likelihood of developing hypertension compared to those with low genetic risk who spent fewer than 30 minutes per week on their phones.
Prof. Qin said: “Our findings suggest that talking on a mobile may not affect the risk of developing high blood pressure as long as weekly call time is kept below half an hour. More research is required to replicate the results, but until then it seems prudent to keep mobile phone calls to a minimum to preserve heart health.”
However, Prof. Qin emphasised the need for further research to confirm these results. In the meantime, you may want to limit your mobile phone use to maintain good heart health.
How often are you on your phone making or receiving calls? Is it more than 30 minutes a week? Why not share your thoughts about smartphone usage and this research in the comments section below?
Also read: The danger of smartphone addiction