Mobile phones and hypertension: new study suggests there’s a link

New research has suggested a link between mobile phone calls and high blood pressure, or hypertension.

The association between mobile phone use and blood pressure has been mixed and somewhat inconclusive.

A report published in European Heart Journal – Digital Health, examined the effects of time spent talking on a mobile phone alongside new onset hypertension.

The researchers drew on data from the UK Biobank, a database from a 2006-2010 survey on UK adults about their health and lifestyles.

They examined records for people with no hypertension, giving them a cohort of 212,046 records.

They then checked the health records of each participant, an average of 12 years later, looking for new cases of high blood pressure.

A total of 13,984 participants had developed hypertension: that’s 7% of the cohort.

The researchers found that spending more than 30 minutes talking on a mobile phone each week was linked with a 12% increase in the risk of developing hypertension.

“It’s the number of minutes people spend talking on a mobile that matter for heart health, with more minutes meaning greater risk,” says co-author Professor Xianhui Qin, a researcher at Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, China.

“Years of use or employing a hands-free set-up had no influence on the likelihood of developing high blood pressure.”

The more time participants spent talking on the phone, the higher their risk of developing blood pressure.

Because the study is observational, it can’t establish cause – it could be that people who use mobile phones more have other lifestyle factors that increase their blood pressure, like high-stress jobs.

But the researchers do suggest three possible reasons for their results: the link between increased mobile phone use and worse mental health, the possibility of RF radiation causing health problems, and the act of holding a phone to the ear – although they think the last is unlikely, since they could still see higher hypertension in people who used hands-free sets.

The researchers also point out in their paper that their sample isn’t representative of the wider population, being “predominantly White middle-aged or older adults and healthier than the UK general population”.

“More studies are needed to confirm the findings,” emphasises Qin. They also acknowledge that mobile phone usage may have changed since the survey was taken over a decade ago.

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