Go on admit it, there’s a good chance you’re reading this article on the toilet.
Whether it’s falling down an Instagram rabbit hole or catching up on the latest Twitter debate (the one about how many towels we should own was particularly divisive), us Brits are never far from our smartphones, so much so that we even take them with us when we go to the loo.
Recent research carried out by MoneySavingHeroes found that a whopping 61 percent of men and 37 percent of women regularly use their phone on the toilet.
In a further survey 40% admitted to using their mobile phone while in the bathroom at work and just 20% of those said they clean their phone afterwards. Gross right?
While it might seem like the ultimate in multitasking, using your phone while otherwise, er, engaged could actually have some pretty serious consequences for our health.
Germs, germs, germs
For a start the bathroom is a hotbed of germs, which can easily be collected on your digi friend.
Initial Washroom Hygiene swabbed smartphones and found that average reading across all the mobile phones was 1479.
Just to give you an idea of how germ-y this is, a reading of over 500 units from an object indicates a high level of contamination, 200-500 is the normal range, and under 200 is low.
“Our phones are a common reservoir for potentially harmful pathogens and bacteria, and we know that people are prone to using them while visiting the washroom,” explains Dr Colm Moore area technical manager for Initial Washroom Hygiene.
“This is especially alarming when you consider that up to 80% of all infections are transmitted by touch. So when people use their phones and put it in close proximity to their mouths when on calls, they are potentially increasing the likelihood of picking up an illness.”
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. Eugh!
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.
And it isn’t just germs we need to be wary of while enjoying a little loo-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. Hello haemorrhoids!
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.
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.
So what’s the solution? Soren Kenner co-author of OFFLINE: Free your mind from smartphone and social media stress suggests making the toilet a phone-free zone.
“Leave your phone out of the loo, not just because of the hygiene factor but also because you do not want to install a habit that equates the loo with giving yourself a free rein social media-wise,” he advises.
“If you allow that to happen pretty soon you could find yourself spending more and more time there simply as a form of escapism. If you want to a better relationship with your phone, turn off notifications and keep it out of the loo, out of the bedroom, out of meetings and away from the dinner table.”
But if we’re just not ready to go phone/loo cold turkey?
“Hand hygiene is vitally important,” says Dr Moore. “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.”