Dr. Andrea Middleton - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Andrea Middleton

Is Virtual Reality Bad For You?

Also Known As: VR



Short answer

Prolonged VR use can lead to visual fatigue, motion sickness, musculoskeletal strain, and skin irritation. Long-term effects may include lasting eyestrain and posture problems. Using VR responsibly—taking breaks, maintaining good posture, and limiting exposure—can help mitigate these risks and maintain a healthy relationship with VR technology.



Long answer

Physical Effects of Prolonged VR Use

As the virtual reality (VR) experience continues to mesmerize the world, providing immersive gaming and innovative learning avenues, it's important to pause and consider its effects on our physical well-being. Prolonged VR use can lead to a variety of physical effects, some of which are noteworthy for users who want to maintain a balanced lifestyle.

Visual Fatigue and Discomfort

One of the most immediately noticeable effects of extended VR sessions is the onset of visual fatigue. This can manifest as eye strain, blurred vision, or even headaches. A study published in the Journal of the American Optometric Association suggests that the prolonged focal distance and close proximity of VR screens to the eyes can lead to a condition commonly known as "computer vision syndrome" or "digital eye strain."

Nausea and Motion Sickness

VR-induced nausea, also known as "cybersickness," is a phenomenon similar to motion sickness that occurs when there's a disconnect between what the eyes see and what the body feels. According to research, factors such as slow response times, lag, and the disconnect between physical and virtual movements can contribute to this uncomfortable experience.

Musculoskeletal Strain

Donning a VR headset for extended periods can also lead to musculoskeletal strain, particularly around the neck and shoulders. The weight of the headset, combined with the tendency to adopt unusual postures while immersed in virtual environments, can contribute to muscle soreness and long-term posture issues. Moreover, repetitive movements within VR can result in overuse injuries, akin to those seen in sports.

Skin Irritation

Long-term contact with the VR headset can cause skin irritation for some users. Sweat and friction from the headset's straps and cushioning against the skin can lead to irritation or even acne, a condition informally known as "VR face." It's recommended to maintain good hygiene practices and consider using protective barriers if skin irritation occurs.

Potential Long-Term Effects

While we've focused on the immediate physical effects, it's essential to consider the potential long-term implications of chronic VR use. Research is still underway, but there is a concern that prolonged exposure to VR environments may lead to lasting issues like persistent eyestrain, posture-related musculoskeletal problems, and even psychological effects. A balanced approach to VR, much like screen time management for other devices, is advisable.

Incorporating regular breaks, practicing good posture, and being mindful of the time spent in VR are simple strategies that can be employed to mitigate the physical effects. As with any emerging technology, staying informed and adjusting usage based on the latest science is the key to enjoying VR while protecting one's physical health. By proactively addressing these physical considerations, individuals can maintain a healthy relationship with virtual reality entertainment and its advancing technologies.

Potential Psychological Impacts of Virtual Reality

Virtual reality (VR) technology has been a game-changer in the way we interact with digital content, offering immersive experiences that can transport users to different worlds. However, as with any technological advancement, it is important to consider the potential psychological impacts it may have on users.

Altered Perception and Dissociation

One of the most talked-about psychological effects of VR is its ability to alter perception. Immersion in a virtual environment can lead to a phenomenon known as 'presence,' where the user feels as if they are truly 'inside' the VR world. This can be exhilarating, but it also raises concerns. Studies suggest that prolonged use of VR can lead to dissociative experiences once back in the real world, whereby individuals might momentarily apply logic or physics from the VR environment to reality, causing confusion or disorientation.

Impact on Social Behavior

VR has the potential to impact social behavior both positively and negatively. On the positive side, it can be a tool for social skills training, as shown in research conducted on subjects with autism spectrum disorders. On the other hand, excessive use of VR can lead to social withdrawal in some individuals, preferring virtual interactions to real-life ones. This can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and impact one's ability to form and maintain personal relationships.

Escapism and Addiction

The immersive nature of VR can make it a powerful form of escapism. This is not inherently negative; escaping into a book or movie has long been accepted as a way to relax. The concern with VR is the intensity of the immersion, which has the potential to lead to addictive behavior patterns. Researchers are looking into how VR might trigger the same neurological pathways as other addictive behaviors, necessitating the establishment of guidelines for responsible use.

Virtual Reality and Mental Health Therapy

Interestingly, VR has also been explored as a tool for mental health therapy. Exposure therapy for phobias, PTSD treatment, and anxiety management are areas where VR shows promise, according to various studies. It allows for controlled exposure to triggering stimuli in a safe environment. However, there is also a risk that exposure to certain content in VR can exacerbate underlying psychological issues or create new ones if not managed properly.


The field of cyberpsychology, which studies the psychological phenomena associated with or impacted by emerging technology, has expanded to include VR. Experts within this field are trying to understand how virtual experiences can influence behavior, cognition, and identity construction. Instances of reported changes in users' real-world behavior following VR exposure have sparked debates about the technology's psychological impacts.

Understanding these potential psychological impacts is crucial for both users and developers of VR technology. With this knowledge, we can harness VR's benefits while addressing its risks responsibly, ensuring that this powerful tool enhances our lives without detrimental effects on our psychological well-being.

Virtual Reality and Vision: Myths and Facts

Virtual Reality (VR) has transformed how we interact with digital content, immersing us in a three-dimensional world that can feel astonishingly real. With the rise of VR technology come questions and concerns about its impact on vision. Let's debunk some myths and confirm some facts about the relationship between VR and our eyes.

Myth: VR Causes Permanent Eye Damage

One common myth is that VR can cause permanent eye damage. The reality is that while excessive use of VR can strain the eyes, it does not inherently cause permanent damage. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) suggests there is no evidence that VR headsets cause lasting vision impairment. However, it's still important to use VR in moderation and take regular breaks to prevent digital eye strain.

Fact: VR Can Lead to Digital Eye Strain

Spending extended periods in a virtual environment can lead to digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome. Symptoms include dry eyes, blurred vision, and headache. The strain arises from the close-up screen and the concentration needed to process rapid movements within the virtual space. A study published in the Journal of Ophthalmic & Vision Research recommends following the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus on something 20 feet away to alleviate strain.

Myth: VR is Dangerous for Children's Eyesight

Concerns about VR use in children often include fears that it may harm their developing eyesight. While children's eyes are still developing, calling VR dangerous might be an overstatement. The paucity of long-term studies means that the verdict is still out on the extent of VR's impact. Still, The Vision Council advises limiting screen time and ensuring VR content is age-appropriate. They also promote monitoring for any signs of eye discomfort or headaches.

Fact: VR May Expose Users to Blue Light

VR headsets, like other digital screens, emit blue light, which can contribute to eye strain and disrupt sleep patterns. Studies, such as one from the BMJ Open Ophthalmology journal, have indicated that prolonged exposure to blue light might affect the eyes' retinal cells. To mitigate this risk, users can limit their sessions and consider blue light-filtering options if they're particularly sensitive or use VR extensively at night.

Myth: Using VR Increases the Risk of Myopia

Another myth is that VR use is linked to an increased risk of myopia, or nearsightedness. While close-up work can contribute to eye strain, current research, including the studies from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has not established a direct causal relationship between VR usage and the development of myopia. Factors like genetics, overall screen time, and outdoor activities play a more significant role in myopia development. Nevertheless, moderation and regular breaks remain key in minimizing any potential risks.

Fact: VR Induces a 'Vergence-Accommodation Conflict'

A physiological effect unique to VR is the vergence-accommodation conflict. This occurs because your eyes must converge to focus on the virtual object that seems close, but they must accommodate to a fixed screen distance inside the headset. A study in the journal Scientific Reports has shown that this can lead to visual discomfort and fatigue after VR use. To avoid this, it's advisable to balance VR experiences with activities that encourage natural eye movement and focusing.

Understanding the potential impacts of VR on vision helps users enjoy the immersive experiences without unnecessary fear, but with a healthy level of caution and awareness. Moderation and frequent breaks are the simplest measures to mitigate most of the potential adverse effects on vision.

Risk of Motion Sickness in VR Environments

The immersive experience of Virtual Reality (VR) can be thrilling, but it can sometimes come with an unwanted sidekick: motion sickness, or what's commonly referred to as VR sickness. This discomfort occurs when there's a disconnect between what your eyes see and what your body feels, especially in fast-moving VR applications. Just as some people experience seasickness on a boat or car sickness on a winding road, VR can trigger similar symptoms.

Motion sickness in VR is caused by a phenomenon known as 'sensory mismatch.' While your visual field is filled with moving images inside the VR environment, your vestibular system — which helps control balance and spatial orientation — doesn't detect corresponding motion. This incongruence can result in symptoms such as:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Eye strain
  • Disorientation

To delve deeper into the matter, a 2020 study published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction highlighted that the frequency and severity of VR-induced motion sickness vary from person to person. Several factors can influence susceptibility, including age, gender, and even a history of experiencing motion sickness in other scenarios.

Thankfully, VR technology is continuously evolving, and developers are taking motion sickness seriously. They are working on minimizing lag, improving frame rates, and creating more natural user controls. These advancements can help reduce sensory mismatches and, thus, alleviate discomfort.

Here are some practical tips for users to minimize the risk of motion sickness while enjoying VR:

  • Start Slow: If you're new to VR, ease into it. Begin with shorter sessions and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable.
  • Choose Content Wisely: Some VR experiences are more intense than others. Start with stationary or slow-moving scenarios before progressing to dynamic environments.
  • Take Breaks: Regular intervals can prevent the build-up of discomfort. Listen to your body and take breaks when needed.
  • Focus on Fixed Points: Just as looking at the horizon can reduce seasickness, focusing on a steady point within the VR environment might stabilize your senses.
  • Standing vs. Sitting: Some people find that standing during VR sessions can reduce feelings of disorientation, while others prefer to sit. Experiment to see what works best for you.
  • Hydration and Ventilation: Staying hydrated and ensuring good airflow in the playing area can help manage some symptoms of motion sickness.

It's important to remember that experiencing motion sickness in VR isn't a static condition and might improve over time as you acclimatize. However, for some, it could persist. Consulting professionals like an optometrist or a neurologist could offer further insights and personalized advice if VR-induced motion sickness is a recurring problem.

Additionally, researchers are exploring ways to predict who might experience VR sickness. As noted in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, traits like postural stability and spatial orientation skills could be potential indicators. Understanding personal predisposition can be valuable in preventing and managing VR spatial disorientation and associated discomfort.

By staying informed about the risk of motion sickness and employing preventive strategies, VR enthusiasts can better navigate virtual worlds while maintaining comfort in the real one. Remember, a little self-care goes a long way in ensuring your VR adventures are enjoyable and not detrimental to your well-being.

Social Implications of Virtual Reality Gaming and Interaction

As with any technological advancement, virtual reality (VR) brings a unique set of social implications, particularly in the realms of gaming and interaction. The immersive experiences offered by VR are reshaping social dynamics and raising new questions about the impact on our interpersonal relationships and social skills.

Nurturing Online Communities

VR gaming has fostered the creation of tight-knit online communities. Players can interact in a more personal and embodied way compared to traditional online games. These communities provide a sense of belonging and can be a significant source of social support for individuals, especially for those who may struggle with social interaction in real life.

Reduced Physical Social Interaction

However, there's a concern that extended time spent in virtual worlds could lead to reduced face-to-face social interactions. The tactile and emotional richness of in-person contact is hard to replicate entirely in a virtual environment, which could potentially weaken real-world social bonds over time.

Development of Social Skills

Another aspect to consider is the development of social skills. For younger users, forming social behaviors largely in a virtual context may differ significantly from the norms of physical world interactions. For example, VR interactions may lack the subtle body language cues that are critical for effective communication and empathy in real life.

Potential for Misrepresentation

VR also provides anonymity and the ability to represent oneself differently than in the real world. On one hand, this can be liberating for self-expression. On the other, it raises the potential for misrepresentation, allowing users to project idealized or false personas that could complicate genuine social connection and trust.

Accessibility and Inclusivity

Moreover, VR has the power to bridge gaps, offering accessible social spaces for individuals with mobility issues or other disabilities. This inclusivity is a significant benefit, allowing for a diversity of interactions that might not be as easily accomplished in the physical world.

Cyberbullying and Harassment

Unfortunately, the anonymity and immersion of VR environments also create opportunities for cyberbullying and harassment. The visceral nature of VR can intensify the impact of such negative interactions, and the industry is still developing effective ways to moderate and combat these behaviors.

In conclusion, while the social implications of VR gaming and interaction are complex and multifaceted, it's important to approach them with a balanced perspective—recognizing both the potential for enriching social connectivity and the challenges that need to be addressed to ensure positive, healthy virtual and real-world communities. As virtual reality becomes more integrated into our daily lives, fostering respectful and meaningful interactions will be crucial for the well-being of its users.

Creating a Healthy Balance with Virtual Reality Usage

In the ever-expanding world of technology, Virtual Reality (VR) has become a significant part of gaming, education, and even fitness. However, like any digital tool, it’s crucial to strike a harmonious balance between the virtual and real world for your overall well-being. Let's dive into some strategies and recommendations for maintaining this balance.

Set Time Limits

Long VR sessions can lead to a phenomenon known as 'virtual reality hangover,' where users may experience disorientation and a disruption in their perception of time. The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests taking a 15-minute break for every hour spent in front of a screen, which could be a good guideline for VR as well. Creating a schedule can help you enjoy the experience without losing track of time.

Be Mindful of Physical Space

When immersing yourself in a VR environment, it’s important to stay conscious of your physical space to avoid injury. Dedicate a specific area for VR activities and remove any hazards. This not only ensures your safety but also allows for a more enjoyable experience free from worry about the real world.

Involve Your Senses Mindfully

Too much VR can potentially cause sensory overload. Moderation is key; intersperse VR sessions with activities that involve other senses, like cooking, which engages taste and smell, or gardening, which involves touch and physical engagement with the natural world. This can prevent the sensory numbness that sometimes follows extended VR use.

Incorporate Physical Exercise

Physical inactivity is a risk with any screen-based activity, including VR. Counter this by choosing VR games and experiences that require physical movement, and complement your VR time with exercise. A study from the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine indicates that breaks involving physical activity can improve mental well-being and cognitive function, making your VR time more rewarding and balanced.

Foster Social Connections

While VR can be a solitary activity, it’s crucial not to let it replace human interaction. Balance your VR time with face-to-face social engagements. Interacting with others can reduce the feelings of isolation that might come from spending too much time in virtual worlds.

Practice Mindfulness and Meditation

Introducing mindfulness practices into your routine can help keep you grounded. After a VR session, take time to meditate or engage in deep-breathing exercises. This re-centers your focus and helps in distinguishing between the virtual experiences and reality, contributing to mental clarity.

Stay Hydrated and Nourished

It's easy to forget basic needs like drinking water or eating when you're engaged in VR. Remember to hydrate and eat nutritious foods before and after your virtual adventures. This will keep your energy levels stable and prevent VR-induced feelings of nausea or headaches.

Finding a healthy balance with VR is personal and will vary from one individual to another. By listening to your body, setting boundaries, and ensuring that your virtual experiences enhance rather than detract from your life, you can navigate the fantastic world of VR in a way that supports your overall well-being.

Frequently asked questions

Certainly! VR offers several games and experiences designed to promote physical activity, ranging from rhythm-based challenges to virtual sports and adventure simulations which require standing and movement. These active VR experiences, when incorporated into regular exercise routines, can contribute positively to physical fitness.

Yes, incorporating breaks during virtual reality (VR) sessions is one of the most effective strategies to prevent negative physical and psychological effects such as eye strain, nausea, and VR hangovers. The American Academy of Ophthalmology, for instance, recommends a 15-minute break after every hour of VR use, mirroring screen time guidelines for other digital devices.

To minimize the risk of cybersickness, start with less intense VR experiences to acclimate your body, focus on fixed points if you feel disoriented, stay hydrated, ensure good air flow in your VR space, and take regular breaks. If symptoms persist, you may want to consult a professional for personalized advice.

While the safety of VR for children's eyesight is still being studied, it's important to monitor their use closely. Limiting screen time, choosing age-appropriate content, and balancing VR experiences with real-life social interactions can help ensure VR is a positive tool for social development rather than a hindrance.

Ask a question about Virtual Reality and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • visual fatigue
  • eye strain
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • motion sickness
  • muscle soreness
  • skin irritation
  • disorientation
  • dizziness
  • eye strain from blue light exposure
  • vergence-accommodation conflict

Possible long-term side effects

  • persistent eyestrain
  • posture-related musculoskeletal problems
  • long-term psychological effects
  • persistent dissociation
  • increased loneliness
  • potential for cyberbullying and harassment


  • innovative learning avenues
  • immersive gaming experiences
  • social skills training applications
  • mental health therapy tool
  • accessibility and inclusivity in social interaction

Healthier alternatives

  • regular breaks
  • good posture
  • time spent in reality
  • physical activities
  • blue light filtering options
  • age-appropriate content for children

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Desmond Richard
Published on: 03-20-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Desmond Richard
Published on: 03-20-2024

Random Page

Check These Out!