How much time do we spend looking at screens?

Tuesday, 30 June 2020 by Vision Direct

Man, woman and child staring at digital screens

Whether you're swiping, clicking, watching or typing: we are spending most of our waking hours looking at screens. If there ever was any doubt about it, life during lockdown has made it crystal clear (you don't even need your contact lenses to see it).

Vision Direct recently commissioned a research study in the UK and US to discover just how much of our life is spent on screens. The results highlight how much digital devices play a major role in modern life. Our survey involving 2,000 British adults revealed that the respondents spend 4,866 hours a year staring at screens, whether they're phones, laptops, TVs, gaming devices or e-readers. That means the average adult spends an astonishing 34 years staring at screens - that's a significant portion of our lifetimes.

Time spent on different devices

The survey was also sent out to 2,000 adults in the US, where it was discovered that the average American spends an equivalent of 44 years on screens. This can be translated in a whopping 382,652 hours and 48 minutes over the average adult lifetime of 60.7 years.

The image on the right shows the time spent on digital devices before and during lockdown. Average computer usage has increased by 44 minutes, while an extra half hour is spent on phones and TVs respectively. So, it doesn't just feel like we are living our lives online at the moment - data shows a sizable increase in the time we actually spend on devices.

Give your eyes a screen break

Did the survey participants believe all this screen time is necessary? It doesn't seem so, as they consider less than half the time on digital devices to be actually 'productive'. But 64% admitted that they wouldn't know how to minimise their screen time, especially during the current social distancing measures. 17% of UK respondents said the idea of being away from their screens makes them anxious.

Our optician Benjamin Dumaine commented: "we're lucky to have devices that connect us with the outside world. A similar pandemic happening 30 or 40 years ago would have seen people coping with the lack of contact in very different ways. However, it's important to be aware of what excess screen time can do in terms of your eye health and keep on top of overdoing it when it comes to screens. We suggest making the most of the government's advice to daily exercise, to help give that essential screen break."

Keeping digital eye strain at bay

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All this screen time doesn't come without a cost. 7 in 10 respondents said they experience headaches, blurred vision and other symptoms of digital eye strain after looking at screens for a long time.

This shouldn't come as a surprise, especially since 2 in 5 participants admitted they rarely remember to rest their eyes every hour - 20% never take a break at all. Let's not forget that such long hours don't just affect your physical health, but also your mental wellbeing and relationships. Our research highlighted how arguments at home are more frequent when people overuse screens, whether it's your kid playing video games or your partner joining one video call after another. And the majority of respondents feel hypocritical about telling their loved ones off for spending a long time on screens, as they're guilty of doing the same, especially during lockdown.

Let's be clear, we're not saying spending time on screens is always negative. In these unprecedented times, digital devices were key at helping us stay connected with loved ones. Benjamin continues: "As long as we are mindful of when to limit their use, there shouldn't be any long term damage. Screens play a very valuable part in our lives, now so more than ever, but if people follow our guidelines they can maintain good eye health."

As Benjamin suggests, we do want to remind you of our 9 golden tips on how to keep a healthy vision at home, including how to position your computer screen, the 20-20-20 rule and the use of eye drops. Finding a balance between screen time and downtime is the best way to live a healthy life without isolating from family and friends. You just need to introduce these tips in your daily routine, and you will soon notice benefits on your vision and eye health.

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