Computer and Stress

Regardless of their professions, almost all executives today need to work on computers. With more and more communications taking place through the Internet, the use of computers is likely to increase. Eve middle aged and elderly professionals, who had managed quiet well over the years manually, are being forced to switch over to computers to keep up with the times.

Most people consider the computer as a tool, the way they would consider their vehicle, their pen or their calculator. Very few seriously consider the impact it may be having on their lifestyles, and particularly about how sitting continuously on the computer could be causing strain. Behavioral scientists have only now begun the process of analyzing and evaluating the effect that prolonged computer usage could be having on the user.

The computer may reduce physical activity of many executives, and has increased certain repetitive motions that could be harmful to health. An officer who would have to get up from his chair to pull out a file from a cupboard in this cabin, now has to press a button to get the same information. A manager who would go and sit in the meeting room and discuss annual targets, now gets the information on his monitor and gives out instructions through the keyboard. Even the activity of shuffling papers, filing, or sorting out documents, has given way to pressing buttons on the computer.

This extensive use of computers involves repetitive motions of the fingers, hand and eyes. There is a narrow range of focus and all the activity is restricted to that range. For example, many senior people have not learnt touch typewriting,and they work on the keyboard with just two or three fingers. The focus of the eyes is persistently in a narrow rage of either the monitor or the keyboard. Hence those who are relying more and more on the computer for their day to day work, have the tendency to succumb to what is known as Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). RSI is a syndrome, i.e. a collection of symptoms characterized by numbness or tingling in the fingers, pain in the wrist, forearm or shoulder when typing, discomfort when moving the mouse; general aches and pains in the neck, shoulder, arms, elbows and hands.

The human body is designed to move. Nerves deep within the muscles provide constant information about the muscles provide constant information about the stretch and movement within each muscle, and a complex network of tendons and ligaments controls our gross body movements as well as the fine control. Movement maintains the flow of blood and lymph around the circulatory system and provides the muscles with exercise, which in turn maintains muscle and general health. This natural system gets affected due to the unnatural, repetitive and constrained body movements of computer user, leading to RSI and other possible health problems.

Computers have also let to continuous sitting in the same posture. A static, same posture in not natural for the human body, and it forces many muscles out of their normal resting state into one of static posture maintenance. Although nerve fibers alert the mind when muscles are held tense in an unnatural attitude for too long, it is possible that high levels of stimulation from the computer might override or ignore these signals.

In advanced countries like USA, RSI is one of the most widespread occupational disorders, and it is likely to grow to disturbing proportions in India very soon. Indians are being used more and more in computer related jobs. In the mad rush of IT boom, very few people are taking these health problems seriously. Quiet often aches and pains are not realised to be connected to computer usage, and many people suffer in ignorance. If problems like RSI are anticipated and dealt with, they would avoid a great deal of suffering and misery.

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