2019 New Year's Resolution: Give Your Eyes a Rest

Unum poll finds 40 percent of adults spend 12+ hours on devices each day.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Dec. 27, 2018) It's the time of year when many Americans resolve to eat healthier, get more exercise or save more money. But a new resolution in this digital-crazed culture should be to give your eyes a break from too much screen time. A recent poll by employee benefits company Unum (NYSE: UNM) found that 40 percent of U.S. adults are spending more than 12 hours a day on various digital devices such as cell phones, tablets and laptops.1 In the same study, 34 percent of people said they feel they spend too much time on their devices.

An emerging and serious side effect of extended use of digital devices can be digital eye strain. Signs can include headaches, eye fatigue, burning, stinging, redness, watering, blurred vision or even pain in the neck and shoulders after extended time on devices.

  • While respondents to the Unum poll are experiencing eye strain, they don't anticipate their use of devices to decrease much in the coming years:
  • Top reported side effects of extended use of digital devices included sore neck, shoulders or back (31 percent), sore, tired, burning or itchy eyes (25 percent), headache (21 percent), watery or dry eyes (20 percent), and blurred or double vision (19 percent).
  • Women reported a higher incidence rate of each of these side effects than men.
  • Twenty-seven percent of respondents expect their use of digital devices to increase or dramatically increase in the coming five years.
  • Younger workers expect to see the biggest increase in their device use, with 31 percent of those 18-24 and 34 percent of those 25-34 anticipating their usage of digital devices to increase or dramatically increase in next five years.

With the new year on the horizon, now is a good time to resolve to make some simple adjustments to reduce eye strain:

  • Every 20 minutes, shift your eyes to look at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This 20-20-20 rule will help relax the eyes by focusing on non-digital objects in the distance, according to Dr. Chris Wroten, an optometrist and partner at Bond-Wroten Eye Clinic.
  • Reduce the brightness or contrast of your screen to a comfortable level.
  • Maintain good posture and adjust your seating to assure you're viewing screens at the proper angles and distances. The top of your computer monitor should sit just below eye level at about an arm's length away from your face.
  • Ensure your prescription is up to date, especially if you wear corrective lenses. If it's been longer than a year since your last eye exam, consider making an appointment with your eye doctor.
  • Make your vision health a priority. Even if you do not wear corrective lenses, try to get a comprehensive eye exam every one to two years, and talk to your doctor about any eye strain symptoms.

For more information about digital eye strain, this consumer study and other industry information, visit Unum's newsroom.

1. Unum poll of 1,229 U.S. adults, September 2018.

About Unum Group

Unum Group provides a broad portfolio of financial protection benefits and services through the workplace, and is the leading provider of disability income protection worldwide. Through its Unum US, Unum UK, Unum Poland, and Colonial Life businesses, the company provides disability, life, accident, critical illness, dental and vision benefits that protect millions of working people and their families. Unum also provides leave and absence management services that streamline the leave experience for employers and employees and stop-loss coverage to help self-insured employers protect against medical costs. Unum reported revenues of $13.2 billion in 2020 and paid $7.6 billion in benefits.


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