Life & Technology

Is Technology Really That Bad for Mental Health?


It seems that every few weeks, there’s a news article lamenting the negative health effects of too much technology and social media. Millennials and teenagers are anxious and depressed, you may hear because they’re glued to their phones, computers, and consoles instead of talking to real people.

But how much of this is true?

Perhaps because social media is still a relatively new phenomenon, studies can get contradictory. Here are three recent studies that may give you food for thought.

Screen time before bed isn’t that bad.

Google any self-help health article, and you’ll likely be given the advice to not use your phone or computer close to bedtime.

However, a study published in Psychological Science in April 2019 begs to differ. It found little substantive evidence of a negative relationship between screen time and adolescent well-being.

The researchers used a rigorous methodology that involved preregistration, which means they made some of their analyses public before running them. In other words, they proactively made their research as transparent as possible.

Finally, the study – which used data from Irish, U.K., and American youth – did not rely solely on self-reported data, which in past studies has proven to be inaccurate.

Social media addiction is like drug addiction.

On the other hand, a January 2019 study published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions argued that excessive social networking use is akin to drug addiction. Baby boomers grew up with Reefer Madness, but a young person today may be growing up with Social Media Madness.

According to the researchers, “individuals with substance use and behavioral addictive disorders have difficulty making value-based decisions[.]” The study was simple: assess the study subjects’ Facebook use habits (using something called the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale) and then test their value-based decision making (through trials of the Iowa Gambling Task).

In conclusion, the researchers found that those with more severe social media use habits were more “deficient” in value-based decision making. This suggests that excessive social media users are more prone to making risky decisions, a trait of substance abusers.

Social media use doesn’t predict a teen’s likelihood of developing depression.

Finally, in a paper published in Clinical Psychological Science, researchers found no evidence that social media use in teens predicts their likelihood of developing depression. This was a longitudinal study, meaning the subjects were followed over time.

However, researchers did discover that symptoms of depression predicted an increase in social media use over time when it came to girls.

Researchers noted that these findings are noteworthy in an era when social media fear-mongering is rife among policymakers and parents.

But remember: mental health is a serious matter.

Whether you are a social media fiend or dislike talking to people online, one fact remains: mental health issues are no joke.

Despite increased awareness in recent years, people with depression and anxiety still suffer from societal stigma, which may lead them to avoid getting help. And once they do get help, the journey doesn’t end there. Overcoming mental disorders often mean undergoing continuous psychotherapy, taking medications, or a combination of both.

Using Technology to Improve Mental Health

It’s easy to tell people to just get help, but this is easier said than done, even for someone who wants to get help, because mental healthcare can be costly and inaccessible.

Interestingly enough, technology has stepped in to fill this gap.

For example, patients can now order their prescription medications from countries outside the U.S.A., where prices are substantially lower due to price regulations. A company like Canada Pharmacy Delivery can ship popular antidepressants like Wellbutrin® from licensed pharmacies abroad directly to one’s door.

Furthermore, telemedicine and online self-help resources have sprung up everywhere. It seems like every year, there is a new trendy self-help app to help you meditate, challenge negative thoughts, or change behavior. And with a working webcam, you can simply Skype a mental health professional for a counseling session.

So, technology might not be that bad for us after all. It’s a two-edged sword, capable of being abused but also used intelligently.

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