New Research Finds Talking on a Cell Phone More May Increase High Blood Pressure Risk—Here's What to Know

Even 30 minutes of chat time can start to spike your risk, the researchers say.

If you ask members of Gen Z what they use their phones for, chances are high that it's almost primarily as a camera, a texting tool, a connection to social media apps, a way to coordinate transportation and payment and a source of music. But for many millennials and older generations, a phone has replaced the land line and comes in clutch for phone calls for business or for pleasure, too.

Turns out, all that talk time might be less than ideal for your ticker. Mobile phones emit low levels of radiofrequency energy, and previous studies have linked this with spikes in blood sugar after short-term exposure. Take a September 2022 study in Frontiers in Public Health, which discovered that higher cell phone use (via calls, texting and gaming) may increase blood pressure in kids and teens. A November 2022 BMC Public Health study, however, suggested that increased cell use might actually lower blood pressure.

Taking this disparity into mind, a group of Chinese researchers set out to learn more about the potential link between talking on cell phones and your ticker. According to this new study published May 4, 2023 in the European Heart Journal—Digital Health, compared to those who take cell calls for 5 minutes or less, talking on a cell phone for even 30 minutes or more per week may increase risk for hypertension (aka high blood pressure).

Read on to learn more about how they reached this conclusion, then study up on the best lifestyle strategies to support healthy blood pressure levels throughout the lifespan—no matter how many calls you need to take.

a photo of a woman on the phone
Getty Images

What This Blood Pressure Study Found

Xianhui Qin, MD, a professor and researcher at Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China and a team of scientists dove into data from 212,046 people who had enrolled in the UK Biobank, a large database of health information from about half a million residents of the United Kingdom.

In addition to gathering information about health biometrics, including blood pressure, the Biobank asked about cell phone usage (including taking and receiving calls and using the phone for other purposes). The scientists analyzed follow-up data from participants over time, and compared cell phone talk time to new cases of high blood pressure.

Cell phone use was broken into one of four categories based on total time. The more minutes individuals spent chatting on the phone, the higher their risk appeared to be for developing high blood pressure.

  • 30 to 59 minutes of calls per week: 8% higher risk for hypertension
  • 1 to 3 hours of calls per week: 13% higher risk for hypertension
  • 4 to 6 hours of calls per week: 16% higher risk for hypertension
  • 6 hours of calls per week: 25% higher risk for hypertension

Using the phone as a hands-free device and holding the phone (say, to scroll through the latest TikTok food trends) did not seem to significantly impact risk for high blood pressure.

"It's the number of minutes people spend talking on a mobile that matters for heart health, with more minutes meaning greater risk," Dr. Qin says in a press release. "Years of use or employing a hands-free set-up had no influence on the likelihood of developing high blood pressure."

As long as call time is kept to less than half an hour per week, Dr. Qin believes the heart health risk of using your phone should be minimal.

As a reminder, hypertension—a condition about 47 percent of American adults currently have, according to the CDC—is a risk factor for heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and even vision loss, the American Heart Association confirms.

Since this study was performed using self-reported data, polling only a mainly white, middle-aged European population, much more research is needed to confirm these findings. Any link may also be a correlation rather than causation (meaning we don't yet have proof that cell phone call time is the trigger for higher blood pressure), so it's wise to put that call on hold and stay tuned.

The Bottom Line

A new study suggests that talking on a cell phone for more than 30 minutes per day might increase risk for high blood pressure. The more time you spend taking and receiving audio calls, the higher the risk jump appears to be. Additional studies are needed to determine if this holds true across diverse populations and age groups, and exactly how much cell phone chatting impacts blood pressure.

Until we learn more, there's probably no need to make drastic shifts to your cell phone strategy. But it certainly can't hurt to put that call on speaker, when possible, and it's always wise to check your blood pressure regularly, especially if you have family history of heart disease.

Speaking of genetics, they certainly play a role in your overall heart health and hypertension risk, but lifestyle factors move the needle as well. Check out these 5 sneaky reasons your blood pressure might be high. When you're ready to step things up, try this walking plan to lower blood pressure, which starts with just 20 minutes per day. Then refuel with the tasty recipes featured in this healthy high blood pressure meal plan for beginners or follow the #1 diet to lower high blood pressure, according to science.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles