The Head Down Generation: Musculoskeletal Symptoms and the Use of Smartphones Among Young University Students

Telemed J E Health. 2019 Nov;25(11):1049-1056. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2018.0231. Epub 2019 Jan 22.


Background: Smartphones offer a variety of mobile applications for diverse purposes and access to services that contribute to an increased time of interaction with the device, influencing the users' health and behavior.Introduction: The time of interaction with smartphones is more intense with the younger generation, and physical, psychological, and social complications are reported. This research aims at identifying the factors associated with musculoskeletal symptoms due to the use of smartphones in university students in Brazil.Materials and Methods: The study has a quantitative transversal type approach, with 522 college students between the ages 18 and 26. A structured questionnaire was applied in 2017, to characterize the sociodemographic profile, composed of information regarding the use of smartphones added to the Nordic questionnaire of musculoskeletal symptoms.Results: One of the main results found was a tendency for participants to have symptoms of musculoskeletal pain with regards to their typing methods on smartphones. When asked about the cases when such symptoms were considered to be related to the use of the device, most cited the cervical region (43.87% of cases). It was also found that those who type on their phones with the head at 45° and 60° angles are about twice as likely to have higher scores of severe symptoms than those typing with their neck at 0° (anatomical position).Conclusion: Within the university student population the typing position on a smartphone and time of use are associated with the presence of pain in the cervical region.

Keywords: e-Health; posture; smartphone; students; telemedicine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • Cervical Vertebrae / pathology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / etiology*
  • Smartphone / statistics & numerical data*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult