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Korean doctors: Smartphones really ARE doing your head in

Warning from the future as gadget-mad Koreans get early onset dementia

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Forget Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training, prolonged exposure to digital devices is actually putting children at risk of early onset dementia, at least according to South Korean doctors.

Cases of memory and attention disorders are apparently increasing in gadget-crazy South Korea, one of the most technologically advanced nations on the planet, with youngsters particularly at risk of intensive exposure as their brains are still developing, according to Joongang Daily.

Too much time spent texting, surfing the web and playing online games can apparently lead to degeneration of the right side of the brain, impairing memory and attention span.

“Overuse of smartphones and game devices hampers the balanced development of the brain,” Byun Gi-won, a doctor at Seoul’s Balance Brain Center, told the paper.

“Heavy users are likely to develop the left side of their brains, leaving the right side untapped or underdeveloped.”

The government’s Health Insurance Review & Assessment Service reported that the number of Koreans suffering cognitive problems in the 20-40 age group had risen from 1,160 in 2008 to 1,585 last year.

With South Korea named the world’s most advanced ICT economy for two straight years by the UN, the worry is that these symptoms will soon start to appear in other countries as digital technology begins to penetrate every aspect of our lives.

ICT ministry stats quoted in the report found almost two-thirds of Korean teens have smartphones today, compared to just 21 per cent in 2011, with the number of 10- to 19-year-olds who use their handsets for over seven hours a day at 18.4 per cent – a 7 per cent jump from last year.

Aside from anecdotal evidence from several doctors interviewed for the piece, there are as yet not many hard stats to back up the claims that prolonged and intensive exposure to digital tech will lead to early onset dementia.

Definitive studies into health issues usually take years before they can generate anything close to compelling evidence, by which time we may all be walking round like lobotomised monkeys, although it’s unlikely.

That said, it’s probably not a bad idea to put the fondleslab down once in a while.

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy warned last year that poor posture and bad working practices associated with technology use can lead to headaches and back and neck pain. ®

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