Software engineer health issues – 7 health problems and solutions

Software engineers end up suffering a range of different health issues because of their sedentary lifestyle. If you are unsure about the associated health risks of becoming a developer then we’ll give you some clarity on the issue in this article.

The most common software engineer health issues tend to be related to poor posture as a result of sitting at a desk and looking at a screen for long hours at a time. Software engineers may also experience wrist problems and strained eyes. Depending on their lifestyle, software engineers may suffer from weight problems and the associated diseases, since the job involves little physical activity.

In this article, we’re going to spend some time looking at the common health problems that software engineers tend to face and what you can do to mitigate your risks of these. This should set you up for a long, safe career in the industry.

What Are Some Common Software Engineer Health Issues?

Health problems

Below are some of the most common health issues that those in the computing world tend to face as a result of their work, followed by some tips on how to mitigate or overcome these issues. We are going to look at:

  1. Back pain
  2. Neck pain
  3. Shoulder pain
  4. Wrist problems
  5. Strained eyes
  6. Weight issues and associated diseases
  7. Stress

Hopefully, this should help you recognize the risks and address them before or as they become problematic. This will help to ensure that your career as a software developer goes much more smoothly.

Back Pain

Back problems are among the commonest health issues for many people who spend long hours sitting at a desk and looking at a screen. They can also be immensely debilitating, leaving you unable to stand or even unable to walk.

Sitting badly day after day massively increases your risk of back injuries because you will weaken the muscles in your back. Unfortunately, many people don’t think about these risks or realize how serious they are until it’s too late.

What To Do About It

It’s very important to make sure your setup is as comfortable and supportive of your back as it can be. Your chair should be ergonomically designed to support your spine so that the top part doesn’t curve down and you don’t hunch your shoulders.

If you don’t have a good chair, deal with this quickly. You should also make efforts to get up and move around every few hours to make sure your muscles are given a break and don’t get too stiff. Consider a standing desk as another option.

Neck Pain

Neck pain is a close second in the list of common software engineer health issues, and it can be almost as unpleasant. If your neck is aching, you may find that you start turning your body instead when you need to look at things – but this isn’t a good idea. It’s important to make sure you aren’t straining your neck every time you are sitting and working.

Bear in mind that neck pain can also contribute to other conditions, like tension headaches, which will massively reduce your ability to work.

What To Do About It

As well as having a comfortable, supportive chair, you should make sure your screen is at the right height for you. The top of your monitor should be at or a little below the level of your eyes, so you are looking down slightly when you are focused on the center of the screen.

You should also make sure that it is about 20 inches from your eyes to minimize strain.

Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain is another common issue, and can be almost as bad as the other two. If you spend a lot of your time with your shoulders hunched up while you click on the mouse and type on the keyboard, you are far more likely to suffer from achy and stiff shoulders.

What To Do About It

As well as making sure that your screen is in the right position, you need to check that your desk is at the right height for you. That means your elbows ought to be at a 90-degree angle, with your forearms able to rest on the top of the desk.

This minimizes the strain on your shoulders and should decrease the chances of you hunching over uncomfortably. You should combine this strategy with regular stretching and movements. Try rolling your shoulders back and forth, hunching them up, and flattening them out.

Wrist Problems

Carpal tunnel syndrome is unfortunately another major complaint of people who spend a long time sitting at the computer and typing. It is also normal to experience other kinds of wrist pain, especially if you spend a lot of time scrolling or otherwise holding your hands at awkward angles.

What To Do About It

Carpal tunnel syndrome will likely require medical treatment, but you can deal with other wrist pain by exercising and strengthening your wrist muscles. Many people find that deadlifting with their wrists helps to decrease the pain.

Strained Eyes

Strained eyes are an uncomfortable consequence of staring at anything for too long, particularly a screen. It is one of the main reasons so many developers wear glasses. You may find you get to the end of the day with itchy and sore eyes, and this can be unpleasant.

What To Do About It

The best thing to do is to change your area of focus frequently. In general, it’s recommended that you look away from the screen at least every 20 minutes for a minimum of 20 seconds, and focus on something further away. You may also find that looking up and down and side to side will help.


We’ve also talked extensively about suitable eyecare for developers in another article.

Weight Issues

Unfortunately, another common software engineer health issue is being overweight. This is because the job requires so little physical activity. If you are sitting for 8 hours a day, it can be very hard not to pack on a few extra pounds. 42.4% of the American public are considered obese so it is no surprise that weight is also a problem amount developers.

This comes with a lot of associated issues, like an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other serious conditions. It also puts increased strain on your joints, which may exacerbate other problems, and it can hurt your self-confidence and body image.

It is therefore critical not to let this happen, and to stay on top of your weight. That isn’t easy when you have a full-time job, but it’s something you need to focus on.

What To Do About It

We all know that the only ways to address weight problems are through a good diet and plenty of exercise. It’s not something that most people want to hear, but there are no quick-fix solutions. You should therefore look for ways to start improving your diet and increasing your exercise as soon as you can.

This might involve taking up a hobby or sport, such as jogging, playing soccer, learning a martial art, or something similar. You should also make efforts to cut down on your consumption of candy and sugary drinks.

Stress

Depending on the company you work for, software engineering can be stressful. If you work for a customer-facing business such as an agency deadlines can be incredibly tight. You also need to keep continually learning which can be stressful if that is something you don’t enjoy or don’t have the time for. 


For junior software engineers, stress can also come from taking on pieces of work that are too big or not reaching out for help soon enough.

What To Do About It

The best way to manage stress at work is to be open and honest with your line manager and team. If deadlines are looming and you aren’t going to get the work done you need to let people know as soon as possible.

If the company culture requires you to work extra hours without pay or break then don’t be afraid to change jobs. Your long-term health isn’t worth risking for a company.

Conclusion

Although it’s a great job in many ways, being a software engineer doesn’t come without some health risks, and recognizing this makes it much easier to get ahead of the game and deal with those in advance. Having a good chair and a comfortable desk setup will mitigate a lot of the common issues, and then you can address the rest.

Resources

Obesity statistics

Eyeglass statistics