For many consumers, it’s not uncommon to spend the majority of the day staring into your computer or phone screen. While that time in front of screens can be unavoidable, a new study conducted by researchers from Oregon State University found that it could also be damaging.
The study revealed that the blue light that emanates from nearly every electronic device can actually speed up the aging process for consumers, regardless of whether or not the light shines directly into their eyes.
“Human lifespan has increased dramatically over the past century as we’ve found ways to treat diseases, and at the same time we have been spending more and more time with artificial light,” said researcher Ellen Chow. “As science looks for ways to help people be healthier as they live longer, designing a healthier spectrum of light might be a possibility, not just in terms of sleeping better but in terms of overall health.”
Monitoring blue light exposure
The researchers conducted their experiment on fruit flies, exposing them to a variety of different light patterns to best determine how blue light would affect their overall health.
To mimic what most humans experience on a daily basis, the experimental group of flies were kept in front of blue light for half of the day and then kept in complete darkness for the other half of the day. The other groups of flies were either exposed to specific light sources that had been filtered to remove blue light or were in total darkness for the duration of the study.
Blue light proved to be detrimental to the fruit flies, as the ones that were exposed to it for 12 hours per day died much earlier than the flies in either of the other two groups.
While these findings alone were surprising to the researchers, they also found that direct eye exposure to blue light wasn’t necessary to feel the effects, as some of the flies involved in the study had a genetic mutation that prevented their eyes from developing. When exposed to the blue light, these flies experienced brain damage and other motor issues.
After seeing how drastic the effects of blue light can be on fruit flies, the researchers suggest that consumers avoid it when possible. They suggest taking preventative measures, such as adjusting the settings on their devices or getting glasses with lenses that can filter out blue light.
“In the future, there may be phones that auto-adjust their display based on the length of usage the phone perceives,” said researcher Trevor Nash. “That kind of phone might be difficult to make, but it would probably have a big impact on health.”