By Sanjay Singh, Bupa
Bupa explain some of the ways that too much technology could affect your mental health and share their top tips to help you get the balance just right.
Whether you’re using the latest accounting software or ordering a last-minute birthday gift, it’s hard to remember a time when technology didn’t make everyday life that little bit easier. This has been particularly true over the last 18 months. During the pandemic, technology helped us to stay connected with loved ones, continue working remotely and discover the best recipe for lockdown banana bread.
In the UK, it’s estimated that adults spent more than 3.5 hours online every day in 2020. But although technology has lots of benefits, you might have found that regular videocalls or replacing your commute with longer working hours has left you with screen fatigue. Spending too much time online and on screens could have a negative impact on your mental wellbeing.
Here we’ll explain some of the ways that too much tech could affect your mental health and share our top tips to help you get the balance just right.
There’s no denying that modern technology has changed the way we work and live. In 2020, research found that 77 per cent of employees use a computer, and 43 per cent use a handheld device every day. All this screen time could get in the way of a good night’s sleep if you let it. But when used in the right way, you may find some sleep technologies help you unwind at the end of the day. Perhaps you enjoy tracking the quality of your sleep using a fitness device, listening to sleep stories on a meditation app, or using a light alarm clock that mimics the sunrise.
But checking your work emails late at night, scrolling through social media before bedtime or staying up late to watch TV, can disrupt your sleep. This is because the blue light emitted from your digital devices can impact your body’s natural sleep cycle and reduce how much melatonin – the sleep hormone – you produce. And not getting enough good quality sleep can impact your emotional and mental wellbeing.
Whether you’re booking your next holiday while on the train to work, or ordering dinner while you pick the kids up from school – using technology can help you to stay organised and multitask.
But if you’re juggling multiple devices, platforms, apps and systems, chances are you’re getting a lot of notifications each day. It could be emails popping up on your laptop, messages pinging on your phone or news stories flashing on your tablet. But if you’re constantly being interrupted, distracted and trying to multitask, you might find you’re struggling to focus on one thing at a time.
Adopting technology in the workplace can help you to make processes more efficient and communicate effectively. It can also help you connect with people across different locations and time zones and work flexible hours if you need to. Not only that, but technology has enabled many businesses to continue working remotely during the pandemic. In some cases, it may even mean you can now apply or hire for a job that’s based in another location. This level of flexibility can help you stay motivated and engaged at work.
But an ‘always-on’ culture can also blur the line between your work and home life. Although most employees find using smartphones and tablets for work helpful, 29 per cent find that they also blur boundaries between work and home. You might feel under pressure to be visible all the time, respond to messages immediately, hit tight deadlines and prove you’re being productive. This can make it harder to switch off and strike a healthy work-life balance.
Since 2013, using social media at work has increased from 27 per cent to 37 per cent. But 84 per cent of employees say they manage to keep their professional and personal social media accounts separate.
Social media can be a great way to connect with other people, create a sense of community and access services and information. Some studies have found that having positive exchanges on social media can have a positive effect on your mood and help you to feel connected and supported. But having a negative experience on social media has been linked to feelings of anxiety and depression. You might find you’re comparing yourself to other people, have unrealistic expectations, low self-esteem, a poor body image or feel dissatisfied with your own life.
Although more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between social media and mental health, the quality of your interactions has a role to play.