Medical expenses to treat smartphone-related diseases such as dry eye syndrome exceeded 400 billion won ($333.6 million) in 2018.
According to a report released by the National Health Insurance Service, smartphone-related disease expense increased 46.8 percent from 295.3 billion won in 2014 to 433.4 billion won – 305.5 billion won in insurance benefits and 127.8 billion won in patient payment -- in 2018.
The report noted that the number of patients also increased to about 5.4 million, a 14.8 percent increase compared to 2014.
In detail, dry eye syndrome affected consumers most with about 2.5 million patients, followed by turtle neck syndrome with 2.1 million, insomnia with 600,000, and carpal tunnel syndrome with 180,000.
In case of turtle neck syndrome, which is the most representative smartphone disease, the patient population increased by 12.1 percent from 2014, and insurance benefits also grew by 44.5 percent, from 147.1 billion won to 212.6 billion won
For dry eye syndrome, patient population and insurance benefits rose by 14.7 and 55.5 percent, respectively, while carpal tunnel syndrome saw an increase of 6.7 and 21.6 percent over the five years.
Insomnia had the highest increase in patients and medical expenses among the four diseases compared to 2014. Patients suffering from the disease increased 29.4 percent, and medical costs soared 65.2 percent.
“While the distribution rate of smartphones in Korea is 94 percent, the excessive use of smartphones has led to an increase in the number of patients who visit medical institutions due to smartphone-related diseases such as turtle neck syndrome, dry eye syndrome, insomnia, and carpal tunnel syndrome,” said Rep. Kim Kwang-soo of the minor opposition, Party for Democracy and Peace. “As nine out of 10 people use smartphones, it is necessary to prevent and manage diseases caused by the use of smartphones at a governmental level.”
Health authorities should also pay careful attention and take preventive measures on IT-related diseases, Kim added.