We're all fingers and thumbs

The #newnormal? O2 Mobile Life Report reveals increased use of mobile phones is leading to a swelling of the nation’s thumbs.

While it may have taken millions of years for homo-sapiens to evolve into our current body shape, it’s only taken ten short years for our fingers and thumbs to start changing shape thanks to the rise of smartphone use.

The O2 Mobile Life Report has found that one third (30%) of smartphone users said they’d begun to see physiological changes to their body, which could be put down to the tapping of touchscreen. Two in five (37%) of the population say they expect their bodies to further evolve over time as smartphones continue to transform society, relationships and everyday life.

The average of two hours a day* that people spend using their smartphones has led to the fact that 2.5 million of us (one in twenty of the adult population) now have one thumb that has grown larger than the other – rising to over one in ten (13%) of those aged between 18 and 34. This could be a result of us swiping phone screens and grappling with handsets that have grown in size.

People have reported that the thumb of their “swiping hand” is on average 15% larger than the thumb on their opposite hand as the muscles have been given a work out.

Furthermore, just under 4 million people say their little fingers have started to change for the same reasons. 8% of the population report that they have developed an indent in their little fingers from the way they hold their phones – developing a distinctive curve in their fingers as a result of cradling their handsets.

As well as physical effects, a further 5% of smartphone users say they have started to experience “phantom vibrations” ringing sensation as they imagine their phone alerting them to a call or message in their pockets, even when it isn’t.

15% of us also think that our phones also help us live longer – with this rising to over a quarter (27%) of those aged between 18 and 34 – which could be thanks to the fitness apps that one in three (30%) of us use.

Nina Bibby, Marketing and Consumer Director, from O2 said:

“It’s now the new normal that smartphones have become an extension of our ourselves – it’s difficult to tell where our hands stop and the handset starts.  So in some ways it’s no surprise then that our bodies are subtly changing to adapt to the fact that mobiles are increasingly a part of our lives. Our research even reveals that over one in ten (12%) of us consider it an extra limb. At O2 we understand just how important our customers’ mobiles are to them. It’s why we offer them more than just a great network.”

Nicola Goldsmith, Upper Limb Services Manager and Hand Therapist said:

 “Our thumb muscles are highly complex and located both in the base of the thumb as well as in the forearm, so an increase in “thumb swiping” could add to muscle strength and therefore bulk in these muscles.

As the research shows, these localised changes – such as enlarged thumbs and little finger indents – are becoming the new normal as younger adults are using the phone for longer periods of time. But there’s no need to worry that our children could have giant thumbs in the future as increasingly sophisticated voice recognition interaction with our phones is likely to prevent any long term genetic changes.”

The extensive study carried out amongst 2,000 people also showed that one in five (19%) Britons can’t last a day without their phone.  20% admit they have fallen asleep with their phone in their hands with one in ten people aged between 18 and 24 saying they drop off nightly holding their handset close.

The O2 Mobile Life Report was commissioned by O2 as part of its #newnormal campaign to further understand people’s relationships with their phones.  In just ten years, smartphones have become fundamental to our lives and are now in the pockets of two thirds of UK adults.

Alongside the report, O2 is working with documentary filmmaker Stevan Riley, to create three short films exploring different aspects of people’s relationship with their phones and attitudes and opinions around mobile technology in 2016.

Riley has interviewed hundreds of people to get real sound bites from a broad spectrum of society. The films are designed to spark debate and open the conversation about our own personal #newnormal.

To see the films and find out more about the campaign, visit o2.co.uk/newnormal