- Mental Health
- Substance Use
- Healthy Living
As internet and social media technology continues to advance, I find myself spending more and more time online - at work, on the bus, at home. The accelerating pace of communication often makes me wonder about the impact this has on our mental health. Moreover, what impact does it have on young people who are connected to their phones and computers like never before?
While the benefits of quick, simple, and often free communication channels have improved how we connect with each other and exchange information, a growing amount of research is showing how internet use is linked to mental well-being.
An article caught my eye last week: How Depressives Surf the Web. Researchers found that university students with signs of depression used the Internet differently that those who did not show signs of depression. Specifically, they had higher levels of file-sharing (like movies and music), very high email use, and frequently switched from one application to another (e.g., email, to chat rooms, to email, to games, etc.!). The researchers believe that these kinds of Internet behaviour are linked to anxiety and difficulty concentrating, which in turn are linked to symptoms of depression.
The topic reminds me of an article that my husband forwarded to me a few weeks ago. The subject line read: It isn’t entirely your fault, work is making you dumber! (Not sure what he was implying!) The article talks about how the constant influx of messages that most people receive all day long causes high levels of anxiety and reduces our ability to concentrate. In one study, people who tried to respond to every message as it came in had a measurable 10 point drop in their IQ!
So what does this research mean for us? Should we stop using email and watching videos online? Probably not. But it does serve as a good reminder to be more mindful about how and how often we are using our smart phones and computers. Perhaps there are ways that we can reduce stress in our lives through small changes in our online behaviour. For example, it might help to focus on one application at a time before moving on to the next or set specific times for responding to messages instead of throughout the day.
At home, we try to find ways to limit our time spent on the computer and responding to email to help reduce stress, but it’s often hard to do! What tips do you have for how to reduce Internet and email related stress in your family?