Emails hazardous to health? Well, surprise, surprise

Dennis DalmanEditorial, Sartell – St. StephenLeave a Comment

Wouldn’t you know it? We should have seen it coming, and – sure enough – here it is: Emails may be hazardous to your health.

Such “hazardous” warnings about everything from soup to nuts inundate us daily. When you come right down to it, they might as well tell us “life is hazardous to your health.”

This new study was done by the University of California, Irvine; and U.S. Army researchers. Those who checked their emails almost constantly during a workday had higher stress levels. Those who did not check emails or checked them infrequently had lower stress levels and tended to be more productive.

Switching screens frequently on a computer, especially from email to email, can be quite stressful, the study claims. But it certainly cannot be that hazardous, that lethal. If it were, there would be many office-bound workers, including some reporters, already lying dead or about to kick the bucket.

Researchers found being a “slave” to one’s inbox causes individuals to have trouble focusing on single tasks, and most experienced a “high-alert” state, causing unhealthy heart rates. The culprit, we’re told, is constant screen-shifting and email-checking.

Before you drop your inboxes, however, it’s best to remember this study was done with only 13 volunteers. The study’s conductors had a hard time finding people willing to give up email for five days. Email is, indeed, the modern addiction, it seems.

There is some comic elements in this study. Those who gave up email began to feel isolated and lonely; they had to stand up from their office desks and go talk to a real person in the office, one to one. The study states, “Workers who had to get up from their desks to seek out a colleague also got in a bit of exercise rather than sitting in their ergonomic office chairs all day.” Gee, let’s hope they didn’t hurt themselves with that exercise effort.

The office manager noted, “In general, the office workers were much happier to interact in person.”

The study also wisely notes a “real vacation” means “unplugging” to enjoy time away from inboxes and emails.

As smart-mouthed teenagers say these days: “Duh!”

This email study calls to mind another study undertaken many decades ago. It was to determine why so many burglaries occur on moonlit nights. The conclusion? Thieves can see better in moonlight.

This email study may seem silly, but – still – it’s a good reminder most of us (let’s face it, just about everybody) should take a “vacation” from our computers, our inboxes, if only for a half day once a week. That sage advice should include those who are obsessed with cell-phone texting or video games.

Remember the good old days when inboxes were all inside our heads and we actually had to communicate with one another in person? Let’s remember, then let’s take a break!

Author: Dennis Dalman

Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.

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