Watch out: long hours spent browsing the Web—whether for updating social media accounts, sending email, or participating in forums—may be increasing one's blood pressure.

A new study from researchers at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit found that teenagers who spend a minimum of 14 hours a week on the Internet had high blood pressure. Of the 134 teens classified as heavy Internet users, 26 had blood pressure rates that were higher than normal.

The study, published in the Journal of School Nursing, is considered the first to establish an association between time spent online and elevated blood pressure. It adds to mounting research that links heavy Internet use to addiction, depression, anxiety, obesity and other dangers to one's health.

According to the findings, 43 percent of boys emerged as heavy Internet users, compared to 39 percent of girls. Forty-three percent of heavy users were also deemed overweight versus 26 percent of light users.

The study used data from 335 teens who were 14 to 17 years old, who completed a 55-point survey of their Internet use, and whose blood pressure reading was taken during a physical test. The questions included time spent online, number of email addresses, and purpose for browsing the Internet.

Andrea Cassidy-Bushrow, lead author and researcher at the public health sciences department of the Henry Ford Hospital, emphasized the need for moderation.

"[I]t shouldn't consume us," she said of Internet usage, warning that teens deemed heavy Internet users had 25 hours as weekly average online time.

Cassidy-Bushrow encourages teens to take periodic breaks from computers and smartphones as well as to engage in exercise, and parents to regulate their children's Internet time: two hours a day, five days a week as a rule of thumb.

She added that school nurses could conduct annual health tests that involve assessing the Internet use behaviors and blood pressure of students. The next steps would then be determined through a follow-up session with students found to have elevated blood pressure.

Photo: Christian Schnettelker | Flickr

ⓒ 2021 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.