Look around the next time you’re at a restaurant. You’ll see toddlers on iPads, kids posting on Instagram, and adults whose phones are placed right next to their plates, ready to be picked up at the first ding, buzz or ring.
Many of us lament how technology has changed our lives, but is it really bad for us? And, if so, what can be done about it?
Let’s take a look at what science tells us about the effects of technology on our mental health:
• A study done at Duke University found that, on days they use technology more, at-risk adolescents experienced more conduct problems and higher ADHD symptoms compared to days they used technology less. On the flip side, the study also found that those same adolescents experienced less depression and anxiety on days they used technology more.
• A University of Michigan study found that Facebook use led to a decrease in happiness and overall life satisfaction.
• Research coming out of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found a link between heavy cell phone use in young adults and depressive symptoms.
• A team of Australian researchers conducted two studies and found that compulsive internet use by adolescents leads to poorer mental health.
• A Swansea University study found that heavy internet users experience psychological symptoms of withdrawal when they stop using.
Those studies raise some interesting points, but they also raise more questions. For example, does technology have the same impact on children, adolescents and adults? Or is it more detrimental to the developing brain? How much screen time is too much screen time? And are some forms of technology, like social media, worse than other kinds, like answering work emails?
The fact is, technology has evolved so fast that we really don’t have it all figured out yet. To be sure, there will be many more studies done going forward that may help us better understand how technology affects mental health.
In the meantime, however, there’s no disputing that tablets, cell phones and computers are all here to stay. But there are a few common-sense steps we can all take—and that experts recommend.
Tim Ferriss, best-selling author of The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, offers these tips:
• Experiment with short periods of inaccessibility. If your lifestyle allows it, keep your phone tucked away and check it at designated times throughout the day rather than having it immediately accessible at all times.
• Leave your phone at home one day a week. “It will feel like a two-week vacation,” Ferriss says.
• Learn moderation. Chocolate is bad for you if you eat too much. Drinking too much alcohol is also bad. Perhaps we need to learn to view technology in the same light.
We all know our physical health is important, but it’s easy to think of our mental health as a secondary concern—that we need to take care of on our own. But the reality is that conditions like depression and anxiety are highly treatable. The key? You do indeed need to be treated to get better.
Contact us today to find a Behavioral Health specialist you can team up with. Together, you can tackle any mental health concerns you may have. After all, being physically healthy doesn’t do much for your well-being if you feel lousy all the time. Research tells us it’s possible to feel better, but you have to take the first step.