A prospective longitudinal study of mobile touch screen device use and musculoskeletal symptoms and visual health in adolescents

Siao Hui Toh, Pieter Coenen, Erin K. Howie, Anne J. Smith, Swarup Mukherjee, David A. Mackey, Leon M. Straker

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29 Citations (Scopus)


This study aimed to examine prospective associations of mobile touch screen device (i.e. smartphone, tablet) use and patterns of use with musculoskeletal symptoms and visual health among adolescents. A representative sample of 1691 adolescents in Singapore (51% girls; 10–19 years) completed an online questionnaire at baseline and one-year follow-up. After adjusting for potential confounders, prospective associations were found between baseline smartphone use and follow-up neck/shoulder (OR = 1.61(95%CI = 1.06–2.44)) and low back (OR = 1.86(1.10–3.14)) symptoms; tablet use was also associated with neck/shoulder, low back and arms symptoms (OR = 1.33(1.04–1.71)to1.52(1.18–1.95)). No associations were observed between the duration of smartphone/tablet use and symptoms. Baseline patterns of use (bout length, certain types of activities, multitasking) were associated with follow-up musculoskeletal symptoms. Smartphone/tablet use was not related to visual outcomes (visual symptoms, wearing glasses/contact lenses, myopia) at follow-up. These findings suggest that patterns of smartphone/tablet use (though not the duration of use) can pose a prospective risk for musculoskeletal symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103028
JournalApplied ergonomics
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Pain
  • Smartphone
  • Tablet

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