The Idea Factory

Silicon Valley Syndrome: More evidence that your desk job is killing you

Back pain is the least of it.

Sitting at a computer for hours and hours, day after day, is the modern equivalent of eating too much steak and smoking cigarettes, according to a growing body of research.

The sedentary life that most working stiffs lead increases the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular events like heart attacks, and can even lead to an early death. And new research by Lumo Body Tech, a posture-and-movement health-services firm in California, sheds light on a bunch of chronic discomforts that come along with those scarier effects.

A survey of 2,019 workers found that 60 percent report having health problems from using technology, including:

  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Eye strain
  • Headaches
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Wrist pain
  • Carpal tunnel

The company has started calling the symptoms "Silicon Valley Syndrome," after an industry in which tech folk famously pull overnighters at their screens. It's an apt title demographically, too: Of those surveyed, those from the West Coast were significantly more likely to suffer from health issues caused by the desk life.

There were also demographic variations in how people deal with these aches and pains. Young Americans were three times as likely as older Americans to cut back on using technology when they started noticing symptoms, says the report, while older Americans were twice as likely to take prescription medications to feel better.

Companies employing mostly desk workers wind up feeling the pain in their finances, too. The Street explains:

Silicon Valley Syndrome is an economic issue as well as a health issue. Lumo says $20 billion is lost each year due to workers compensation issues related to back, neck, and eye maladies in the workplace. And another $100 billion is wasted annually on lost productivity due to workplace absences related to repetitive stress injuries. [The Street]

Many health workers, says the StreetThe Street, suggest combating Silicon Valley Syndrome the same way you combat many modern health defects: Exercising for 150 minutes or more each week. And Lumo, quite naturally, recommends using its own products, like the "LUMOback," which "actually mirrors your posture in real time on the app and turns orange and sad when you break out of correct posture.

But the Mayo Clinic isn't so sure that a straight back and a little gym time are the cure to hours on end of stillness. According to the site, "Spending a few hours a week at the gym or otherwise engaged in moderate or vigorous activity doesn't seem to significantly offset the risk" of being stationary for most of the day.

"Rather, the solution seems to be less sitting and more moving overall," it says. "You might start by simply standing rather than sitting whenever you have the chance."

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