Studies See A Link Between Cellphone Usage And Hypertension


Individuals who engaged in conversations for at least half an hour per week were found to have a higher likelihood of developing high blood pressure. Several studies have demonstrated that the exposure to low-level radiofrequency waves emitted by cellphones can lead to elevated blood pressure levels.

A recent research study, published on May 3, 2023, in the European Heart Journal — Digital Health, suggests that accumulating 30 minutes or more of cellphone conversations per week could potentially raise the risk of developing high blood pressure. The researchers observed a 12 percent increased risk of hypertension (medically referred to as high blood pressure) among those who talked on their mobile phones for half an hour or more per week, in comparison to those who spoke for less than 30 minutes.

“The number of minutes that people talk on their cellphone appears to matter for heart health, with more minutes adding up to greater risk,” said Xianhui Qin, MD. He is the study author and a professor at Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China.

However, utilizing cellphones over an extended period might not impact the likelihood of hypertension, as long as individuals engage in conversations for less than 30 minutes per week, according to his statement.

Previous Research Showed Mixed Results

Hypertension stands as a significant risk determinant for heart attacks and strokes, and is a leading contributor to untimely mortality on a global scale. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that approximately 116 million individuals, constituting 47 percent of adults in the United States, grapple with hypertension.

The definition of hypertension encompasses a systolic blood pressure surpassing 130 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) or a diastolic blood pressure exceeding 80 mmHg, or the utilization of hypertension medication.

Mobile phones emit minor levels of radiofrequency energy, which some studies have associated with temporary increases in blood pressure. Nonetheless, the outcomes of these studies have displayed disparities, as stated by the authors.

To illustrate, a research study unveiled in September 2022 indicated a correlation between heightened cellphone usage and amplified blood pressure among children and adolescents, although this study encompassed texting and gaming as well. Conversely, a separate study reported in BMC Public Health in November 2022 contradicted these findings, suggesting that augmented mobile phone use was, in fact, linked to reduced blood pressure.


Cellphone Use of Around 1 Hour Daily Linked to 25% Increased Risk of Hypertension

In order to enhance comprehension of the connection between initiating and receiving cellphone calls and the onset of new hypertension cases, a research initiative incorporated data from over 200,000 participants enrolled in the UK Biobank.

The study exclusively encompassed individuals devoid of hypertension. The participants’ ages ranged from 37 to 73, with a mean age of 54. Notably, the UK Biobank’s demographic makeup consisted of 95 percent individuals of white ethnicity, with 62 percent being female, and 88 percent reported using mobile phones.

Details regarding the utilization of cellphones for call-making and receiving were gathered via a self-reported touchscreen questionnaire administered during the baseline assessment. This questionnaire encompassed information such as years of usage, weekly usage hours, and the employment of hands-free devices or speakerphones.

In an attempt to isolate the potential impact of mobile phone usage on hypertension, researchers took into account various variables, including age, gender, body mass index, ethnicity, socioeconomic factors, familial hypertension history, educational background, smoking habits, blood pressure, blood lipid levels, inflammation markers, blood sugar levels, renal function, and the usage of medications for cholesterol or blood glucose reduction.

Over a span of 12 years, researchers monitored participants, and during this period, approximately 7 percent, or 1 in 14 individuals, developed hypertension.

•               Comparing mobile phone users to non-users, the former exhibited a 7 percent elevated vulnerability to hypertension.

•               Among those who engaged in mobile phone conversations for 30 minutes or more per week, there was a 12 percent higher probability of experiencing new-onset high blood pressure in contrast to those who spent under 30 minutes on calls. This pattern persisted across both genders.

In comparison to participants who utilized their mobile phones for less than five minutes weekly for calls, the subsequent durations of weekly phone call engagement showed the subsequent increased risks in hypertension development:

•               30 to 59 minutes raised the risk by 8 percent.

•               1 to 3 hours raised the risk by 13 percent.

•               4 to 6 hours raised the risk by 16 percent.

•               Exceeding 6 hours raised the risk by 25 percent.

Dr. Qin pointed out that the number of years of cellphone usage and the utilization of hands-free devices or speakerphones had no impact on the likelihood of developing high blood pressure.

High Genetic Risk As Well As High Phone Use Increased Risk Most

Scientists utilized information from the biobank dataset to ascertain whether individuals carried a low, moderate, or substantial genetic predisposition for developing high blood pressure. The examination revealed that individuals with a significant genetic risk who engaged in a minimum of 30 minutes of mobile phone conversations per week exhibited the highest probability of developing high blood pressure. Specifically, their likelihood of hypertension was 33 percent greater than that of individuals with a low genetic risk who spent fewer than 30 minutes on phone conversations each week.

More Research Is Needed to Confirm Cellphone and Hypertension Link

This study holds intrigue as conversing over the phone is not conventionally linked with the risk of developing high blood pressure, remarked Dr. Jim Liu, a cardiologist situated at The Ohio State University in Columbus. It must be noted that he was not part of this particular research endeavor.

“I would still interpret these results cautiously because as the authors mentioned, there could still be several variables that confound the results of this study. The purpose of this study wasn’t necessarily to confirm a relationship between talking on the phone and hypertension, but really just to generate a hypothesis that would require more studies to evaluate,” Dr. Liu shared.

The ”findings and the underlying mechanisms should be further evaluated in more studies,” wrote the authors. “In addition, our study focused only on making or receiving phone calls and did not investigate the impact of other uses of the mobile phone, such as texting, gaming or surfing the internet on health endpoints,” Qi said.

How Could Cellphone Use Trigger High Blood Pressure?

While the primary intention of the study was not to reveal the reasons behind the elevated risk associated with increased cellphone conversations, the authors put forth several hypotheses.

One plausible explanation is that the manner in which the arm is positioned during phone usage, coupled with the grip of the hand holding the phone, might heighten sympathetic activity. This facet of the nervous system is responsible for stimulating heart rate and blood flow. Consequently, this activation could lead to bodily alterations that have the potential to escalate blood pressure levels, as explained by Qi.

“However, it’s worth noting that our study found no significant link between using hands-free devices or speakerphones and new-onset hypertension — suggesting that the telephoning position alone may not fully explain the association between long-term mobile phone use and hypertension,” he explained.

“People who talk on their phones more may use their phones more in general, and as the authors mentioned, higher frequency mobile phone use may be linked to more adverse mental health and sleep disorders, which can increase risk of hypertension,” Liu said.

Should People Limit Cellphone Use for Health Reasons?

“We hope that our study contributes to a better understanding of the potential health risks associated with frequent mobile phone use and encourages further research in this area,” said Qi.

Being conscious of these discoveries and taking into account worries about blood pressure, it is crucial for individuals to regulate their call duration. This leads to the question of whether this study adequately supports the recommendation for people to ensure they remain within the 30-minute limit.

“I don’t think people need to go that far. Even the authors recognize that this study has limitations, and it merely proposes some hypothesis rather than establishing proof that talking on the phone for 29 minutes is any better than 30 minutes for blood pressure,” said Liu.

He mentioned that before we can make definitive recommendations like that, further comprehensive studies focused on this matter would be necessary.