Millions of us could be suffering from eye problems because we spend the equivalent of 84 days per year looking at screens.
That’s according to research which has revealed that we naturally blink between one and three times per minute when we’re concentrating on a computer – compared to 20 times per minute when we’re not.
A lack of blinking can result in blurred vision, dry eyes and headaches caused by eyestrain and a survey of 2,000 adults has revealed we now spend more than five-and-half hours looking at a screen a day.
The consequence is that many of us who work 9 to 5 start to struggle with their eyesight by 2pm.
More than half the nation now spends the working week looking at a monitor and 88 per cent of those said their eyes feel tired, dry and heavy as a result.
It also emerged headaches caused by eye strain have affected over one third of office workers and one in five has even experienced blurred or disturbed vision.
The study, commissioned by Hycosan and Optase Eye Care, proved just how much we rely on devices, with 36 per cent of adults admitting they wouldn’t be able to avoid looking at a display for an entire 24-hour period and two in five can’t recall their last screen-free day.
“The results demonstrate how screens have really taken over our lives, they are everywhere we look,” says ye care expert and oculoplastic surgeon, Sabrina Shah-Desai, said:
“Obviously it’s difficult to avoid them, especially in a working environment, but it’s vital that we take steps to look after our eyes and have regular breaks from artificial light and digital devices.
“Office workers, in general, are more prone to dry eye disease as we naturally blink less when concentrating, blinking as few as 1-3 times per minute when focusing on a computer screen versus 15-20 blinks per minute when we’re not.
“It’s these longer periods between blinking where symptoms of dry eyes arise, causing redness and a feeling of ‘grittiness’ and blurred vision.
“Our eyes are essential, and we should treat them well to minimise any long term damage and maintain optimum health.”
The study also found over half of those questioned believe their working environment – including lighting, air conditioning as well as screens – has a negative effect on their eyes.
As a result, 27 per cent have adjusted the computer brightness and text settings, and half take regular breaks in order to limit the damage to their eyes.
One quarter even started wearing glasses for monitor use and two in 10 have tried lubricating eye drops.
The typical self-imposed screen cut-off time emerged as 9.25pm, however one in 10 admitted using screens until midnight.
This has led to over one quarter suffering from what can only be described as a ‘screen hangover’ – struggling with their eyesight more than usual the following day after being up late looking at screens.
One in three actually went as far as to suggest they felt ‘more awake’ the following day if they weren’t staring at screens all evening.
Surprisingly, televisions were revealed as the most common screen, with 72 per cent looking at one during an average day, followed by 68 per cent viewing a mobile phone.
Second-hand screen time was found to have a big impact, with three in 10 having experienced their partner using a mobile in bed while they’re trying to sleep and 55 per cent seeing phones used at social events.
This led to one in 10 admitting phones have affected their relationship because their partner was ‘distracted’, and many said their other half responds quicker to their mobile than to them.
While not actively watching, almost two thirds have been affected by a TV on in the background and similarly 51 per cent have been unable to avoid televisions in pubs or restaurants.
A further six in 10 admitted to looking at multiple devices at the same time, such as their laptop and phone.
This rise in digital use has caused one third of parents and grandparents to worry about how often their child is looking at screens, according to the OnePoll study.
In order to reduce the impact of this, 38 per cent encourage offline activities while one third set limits of screen time.
Here are Sabrina’s expert tips for healthy eyes in the workplace:
• Use a preservative-free eye drop such as Hycosan Fresh to rehydrate the eyes and reduce that ‘gritty’ feeling
• Follow the 20, 20, 20 rule – every 20 minutes look away at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds
• After a long day, try a moist heat mask to restore moisture and loosen the eyes naturally hydrating oils