Ten IT Health Risks

10 IT health risks — and how to combat them

June 25th, 2008
Author: Suzanne Thornberry

IT might not appear to be a high-risk field, but a surprising number of ailments can plague IT pros in all job roles. Here are some of the most prevalent health concerns.

Everybody seems to understand that movers and construction workers can have serious back and neck problems from their strenuous work. But when you sit at a desk most of the day, people aren’t necessarily as sympathetic when you moan and groan about your spine, your sore throat, or your mood. Based on anecdotal evidence gathered in various workplaces, here are the top ailments people in a typical IT office may face.

Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.
#1: A slug’s life

When the only body part you move in your job is your mouse finger, you just have to take fitness into your own hands. Do you have to train for a marathon to lose some weight? Not at all, according to Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic. He found that the time spent sitting was more likely to correlate with weight gain than the lack of vigorous exercise. You can keep slim, according to Levine, by walking slowly (about 0.7 mph) two to three hours a day.

Although few of us can stroll around the neighborhood that long, several companies have developed workstations with treadmills attached so you can pseudo-walk while you check your e-mail or debug code. It all makes CNET’s Mike Yamamoto wonder if there’s a conspiracy to tether workers to their desks. (You can download several tools from TechRepublic to help you evaluate and manage your weight, including a body mass index [BMI] calculator.)
#2: SIT happens

Weight gain can creep up on you, but it’s not an emergency in itself. A much more serious hazard of office work is seated immobility thromboembolism (SIT). This problem occurs when blood clots form in the legs (deep vein thrombosis) or lungs (pulmonary embolism) in people who spend a long time sitting. People may develop these clots while on a long trip, if they don’t get out of the car or stroll around in the plane’s cabin a bit. CNET noted the risk of deep vein thrombosis increasing back in this 2003 article. More recently, results of a New Zealand study suggested that a sedentary job may double the risk of developing clots in the legs (DVTs) or, even more dangerous, clots in the lungs.
#3: So many headaches

From the flicker of fluorescent lights to the hunched-up debugging posture, the conditions of your cube farm conspire to cause headaches. Pagers, end users, and the threat of… More…