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Harvard psychologist says iPhones give us bad posture and depress us

The 'iHunch' may also affect our memory, according to a study

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 May, 2016, 8:25pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 May, 2016, 11:30am

If you're reading this on your iPhone, chances are you're not sitting up straight. 

In fact, you're probably in what New Zealand physiotherapist Steve August calls the "iHunch" position (also known as "text neck"), explains Harvard Business School professor and social psychologist Amy Cuddy in a recent New York Times article. 

Cuddy writes that this position is detrimental to our body because when we lean forward 60 degrees or more to scroll through Instagram or Snapchat, our necks are forced to support the additional 10 to 12 pounds that our heads weigh, which increases the strain on our necks to a whopping 60 pounds.

This may explain, she writes, why August is seeing more and more teens come in with the "dowagers" humps that he used to only see on elderly women.

The emotional effects 

Turns out, your smartphone addiction isn't just taking a toll on your physical well being. It's also bad for your emotional health.

Cuddy cites a study on the correlation between slouching and self esteem from Shwetha Nair and her colleagues that was published in Health Psychology.

In this study, they divided a group of non-depressed volunteers into two groups: one group would answer mock interview questions in an upright position, and the other would answer them in a slouched position. What happened to the slouchers? They gave more negative answers and had "significantly lower self-esteem and mood, and much greater fear," Cuddy explains in the article.

The "iHunch" may also affect our memory, Cuddy asserts, based on a study from the Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy that also divided participants — this time who were clinically depressed — into a slouching group and an upright group. Both groups were shown a list of positive and negative words and then asked to recall them. Those who sat upright recalled about the same amount of negative and positive words, but the slouchers recalled significantly more negative words than positive ones.

The simple fix 

To protect both your physical body and mental health, Cuddy suggests keeping your shoulders back and head up when using your iPhone, as well as massaging the muscles between your shoulder blades and the ones on the sides of your neck to "reduce scarring and restore elasticity." 

Lastly, she asks that people simply become more aware of the toil that the "iHunch" takes on your mood, memory, and behavior. "Your physical posture sculpts your psychological posture, and could be the key to a happier mood and greater self-confidence," she writes.