All the Ways Modern Life Is Warping Our Skeletons

Our bones are changing, and — surprise! — it has something to do with smartphones

Human skull
The human skull isn't actually adapting to increased phone use. (Getty)
Mathew MacQuarrie/Unsplash
By Kayla Kibbe / June 13, 2019 3:24 pm

From skull spikes to skinny elbows, modern life is already making its mark on our bones, warping our skeletons in new and sometimes concerning ways, BBC Future reported.

One of the most significant developments to the human skeleton of today is a spike-like growth on the skull. Called the “external occipital protuberance,” the feature was first investigated in 1885 when it was thought to be extremely rare. The protuberance has since become increasingly common, especially among younger generations. These days, one in four adults between 18 and 30 has one of these growths.

Unsurprisingly, the growth is probably a response to our modern technology habits. David Shahar, a health scientist at the University of The Sunshine Coast, Australia, theorizes that as we spend more time hunched over our phones, our bodies are responding by laying down extra layers of bone in order to help our skulls support the extra stress.

Meanwhile, over in Germany, scientists are investigating the mysterious case of shrinking elbows. Comparing a study measuring children’s skeletons between 1999-2009 to an identical study done just a decade earlier, anthropologist Christiane Scheffler found that children’s bones are shrinking dramatically.

A follow up study tracking the children’s bone size alongside their exercise habits suggested that the shrinking skeletons are likely the result of a decrease in physical activity. Bone mass increases with exercise in order to support muscle growth. So the less we move, the less our bones grow. As we slow down, our bodies are shedding bone mass to better accommodate our increasingly sedentary lifestyles.

Essentially, our skeletons are adapting to a changing society the way they have been throughout all of human history. While such adaptations have long manifested in response to increasingly intelligent modes of modern life, however, our bodies now bear the somewhat less flattering signs of sedentary lifestyles and technology addiction.

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