There’s a good chance you’re reading this article on your phone while sitting on the toilet.
Whether it’s falling down an Instagram rabbit hole or catching up on the latest Love Island drama, us Brits are never far from our mobiles, so much so that a huge proportion of us even take them with us when we go to the loo.
Six in 10 (59.2%) take their mobiles into the bathroom, with nearly two-thirds (61.6%) of those using them to check their accounts for the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Reading or listening to the news is the next most popular activity the research, conducted by NordVPN, found. A third (33.9%) stay in touch with current affairs on the loo, while a quarter (24.5%) use the time to take care of life admin by messaging – or even calling – their loved ones.
While it might seem like the ultimate multitasking, using your phone while otherwise, er, engaged is a very bad habit for a number of reasons.
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It’s a hotbed of germs
Further research from Kastus reveals that us Brits are so attached to our phones we pick them up every 12 minutes, with more than a quarter (26%) using their phone on the loo every time they go and over half (51%) going on to handle their phone at every meal.
The problem is almost a third of us have never once cleaned our phone, so you can just imagine the nasties our phones could be riddled with, particularly as germs live on smooth surfaces like mobile phone screens for up to 28 days.
Dr Hugh Hayden, infection control specialist, said: “It’s an established fact that smartphones can carry up to ten times more germs than toilet seats, and from a hygiene viewpoint, touchscreens have been described as the ‘mosquito of the digital age’ as being vectors of infectious disease.
“When we touch shared surfaces then use our smartphone screen there is a risk of cross contamination, the phone itself then becomes a source of infection.”
While many of the pathogens found on phones can be harmless, some can lead to some pretty nasty health ailments.
Previous research papers have indicated that some of the most common pathogens found on mobile phones are: Staphylococcus – the most commonly found strain is staphylococcus aureus – a common cause of skin infections including abscesses, respiratory infections such as sinusitis, and food poisoning.
Other strains of Staphylococcus could also feature on your phone screen and these can cause diseases such as meningitis, sepsis and urinary tract infections.
Then there’s the Coliforms (including E. coli) and Enterococcus, which tend to indicate that other pathogenic organisms of faecal origin may be present.
Even if you’re not using your phone on the loo, if you’re still holding it while you’re going in and out of the bathroom, that’s enough to put bacteria on the phone particularly if you haven’t yet washed your hands.
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It can impact your down-there health
Turns out it isn’t just germs we need to be wary of while enjoying a little toilet-time with our smartphone.
While many of us use the toilet as some a kind of time-out from life and an opportunity to catch up on your phone-min, too much scrolling in the sanctuary of the bathroom could have an unexpected impact on your bottom.
According to some experts staying on the toilet for an extended period, say while you’re engrossed in Insta-stories, can put unnecessary pressure on the rectum, which some believe can cause haemorrhoids.
“While you might enjoy sitting on the toilet, reading the newspaper or scrolling through social media, this could be damaging your rectum,” explains Stephanie Taylor, health and wellbeing expert and founder of Stress No More.
“When you sit there, with your anus at a different level than the rest of your bottom half, this puts extra pressure on the veins in your lower rectum, which could eventually lead to haemorrhoids that can be uncomfortable and result in rectal bleeding.”
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But before you vow never to use your phone on the loo ever again, Dr Kevin Barrett, a GP and chair of the The Primary Care Society for Gastroenterology (PCSG), says we may only really be at risk of the r’hoids if we’re constipated.
“It was thought for a long time that sitting on the toilet for a long time might make haemorrhoids more likely, but studies carried out have not shown a significant risk of this happening,” he says.
Instead he says the risks of using your phone on the toilet are more likely to come from a reduction in circulation to the legs (in very extreme circumstances this might lead to the development of a deep vein thrombosis), or from the contamination of your reading material [ie your phone] with poo. See above.
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Do we need to go phone/loo cold turkey?
Not necessarily as long as we try to cut down on the time we spend on the toilet with our technical friend and practice good hand hygiene.
“Hand hygiene is vitally important,” Dr Colm Moore area technical manager for Initial Washroom Hygiene previously told Yahoo UK. “Think about the number of times you touch your phone each day. Every time you do so, you could potentially collect and spread microbial activity.
“Washing your hands regularly is one of the most powerful steps people can take to help prevent the spread of bacteria and illness. We recommend washing your hands at least five times a day, as well as every time you use the washroom.
“And of course, it helps to give your phone a regular clean with an antibacterial wipe.”