201105 Text messaging and upper extremity symptoms in college students

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Judith E. Gold, ScD , Department of Public Health, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Venk Kandadai, MPH , Health Communications and Health Disparities, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Cheltenham, PA
Alexandra Hanlon, PhD , School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
The use of hand-held computers (PDAs) is increasingly common in occupational settings. There are no published studies which examine an association between PDA exposure and musculoskeletal symptoms. The objective of this study was to determine if there was an association between self-reported musculoskeletal discomfort and number of text messages sent per day in college students. A questionnaire inquiring about number of text messages sent per day (4 categories: 0, 1-10, 11-20, 21+ messages) was administered to a convenience sample of college students (n = 138) at a large urban university. A body map for noting any discomfort was also included. Upper extremity/back (UE/back) symptoms included all regions above the waist (excluding chest). Separate generalized linear models determined prevalence ratios (PR) for UE/back, shoulder, and neck symptoms. Gender and age were potential confounders. For the total cohort, there was an association between shoulder discomfort and number of daily text messages (PR = 1.40, 95%CI: 1.05, 1.86). When stratifying on gender, an effect was observed in males (PR = 1.94, 95%CI: 1.22-3.06), but not in females (PR = 1.10, 95%CI: 0.76-1.60). Similarly, there was effect modification by gender for neck discomfort (PR = 2.52, 95%CI: 1.16-5.46 males; PR = 0.93, 95%CI: 0.61-1.43 females). There was no association with age in any model. Number of daily text messages sent may increase the risk of shoulder or neck discomfort, particularly in males. Further research is necessary to confirm these findings. It may be prudent to monitor musculoskeletal symptoms in workers exposed to handheld devices.

Learning Objectives:
Describe the effect of using hand-held computers on musculoskeletal discomfort.

Keywords: Ergonomics, Youth at Work

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have an SdD in Occupational Epidemiology.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.