We spend the day between screens. We chat, videocall, browse, play, and even pay with our mobile phones, work on the computer, if we walk or use public transport, we put on our headphones to listen to music, podcasts or watch movies during the journey, we shop online…We’re always on the lookout for some electronic device, we’re always hyper-connected.
This is the term we use nowadays, and it defines the connectivity that exists in digital environments and the interaction between information systems, data and devices, all of which are connected to each other through the internet. Hyperconnectivity has numerous benefits and undeniable advantages, but it also has adverse effects. In terms of health, whilst we see countless benefits of tech, we also see harm – both physically and mentally). Here, we’ll break down what technology does both for us and to us.
Main advantages of using technology:
Medical advice and support through technology
There was a time when using technology to deal with health-related issues meant Googling your symptoms. Today, numerous high-tech tools and various telemedicine services allow us to have better access to health care.
Some of the options to improve your health are at your fingertips and in your pocket.
- Health apps. Count your steps, track your weight, your sleep, your menstrual cycle or your mood. Some remind you to take your medication, record vital signs such as heartrate, temperature, oxygenation of your blood or blood pressure, and gather information about symptoms. They often go hand in hand with your smartwatch. They should be seen as indicative and show you a trend, but be mindful that they are not always accurate.
- Medical portals. Like the one of your specialist or hospital. Ideal for keeping track of your health care. They are used to view lab test and exam results, manage appointments, collect electronic medical records, refill prescriptions, and communicate with your doctor.
- Health monitoring devices. These monitors are perfect in case of chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma and heart failure. They work in two ways: the first is with devices that connect to your smartphone and allow you to measure your blood pressure, heart rate or blood glucose levels at any time; and the second is through automated text-based programs that send alerts to your phone to remind you to take medication, exercise, or check your blood sugar. Sometimes they can be connected to a medical centre in case of an urgency.
- Telemedicine. Ideal for appointments available on demand. You can schedule a virtual appointment with a doctor or nurse, often in just a few minutes. Many of these services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and from the comfort of your own home in a language you prefer. Foyer Global Health offers this through the ecare-portal. Where you can speak to a doctor or request a Second Medical Opinion online.
- Virtual psychological counselling. Ideal for mental illness and any emotional discomfort. You connect with your psychologist or coach by video. Widely used by people who find it difficult to make the move to face-to-face consultations, either due to time incompatibility, lack of time, or because they live in a rural area or because they live abroad and they want to speak to a professional in their own language and with the same cultural background.
As you can see, the positive impact of technology on healthcare is immense and undeniable. Technology helps us solve problems related to diagnostic methods, patient care, clinical treatments, and access to high quality information, among others.
Connecting you to your loved ones
Expat living may have become a lot less tough, tech can allow us to be very connected. Due to video/online calling and chat makes your family feel much closer and it is easier to stay connected. Social media also plays a big part in keeping up to date with what is happening back home.
Despite being incredibly helpful, tech can sometimes harm. Here’s what can happen if we overdo it or misuse it.
Main adverse effects on mental health
- Anxiety. The easy and fast communicational exchange made possible by the different platforms causes the need to seek external approval, feelings of loneliness in the face of the expected non-response, and anxiety in the comparison of body image. In addition, social networks create a state of anxious control, by making it possible to access information such as being able to see the last connection, message read or ignored, or being in the company of another person. All this generates obsessive ideas about why the other person reacts and can deteriorate social relationships.
- Depression. Time spent on social media and browsing is time taken away from real life, building social relationships, and avoiding social isolation. A person can have many friends on Facebook or Instagram and yet no one to chat with in real life.
- Sleep disorders. Proximity to technological devices can lead to sleep problems. Light from screens affects the retina and influences the secretion of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep cycles.
Effects on physical health
- Eye damage. The light from the LEDs on the screens affects the retina and can cause pain, burning, tearing, or redness in the eyes. In addition, screens can cause eye fatigue, due to the decrease in the frequency of blinking.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome. It is a syndrome that occurs when the nerve that runs from the forearm to the hand becomes trapped in the carpal tunnel of the wrist, causing numbness in the fingers, pain, tingling, and weakness of the hand.
- Muscle tension and headaches. The use of the mobile phone forces you to have a forced neck posture that can cause a tension in the muscles, and that eventually causes headaches.
How can I mitigate health risks associated with tech?
Although technology can have negative effects on physical and mental health, there are also ways to mitigate these effects that will allow us to make appropriate and profitable use of it:
- Set limits on the time you spend online and the use of tech devices in general.
- Let your bedroom be a space free of electrical appliances.
- Do not work with the laptop on your legs, move it as far away from the body as possible and adopt a correct posture.
- Take frequent breaks and be aware of the risks involved in hyperconnectivity.
- Make time for activities that promote your health, such as exercising, meditating, or socializing with people face-to-face.
If you would like to talk with a doctor on the effect of using technology on you or any other medical questions, please reach out to our team of doctors available to you at no additional cost. The service is rendered through the e-care portal and supported by Teladoc Health.
The Telemedicine service is included in your insurance with Foyer Global Health, but no information is shared about you using this service or what you discuss during these consultations with Teladoc Health. The service is available in French and English 24/7/365 and in German from 8.00-20.00 CET on weekdays. Don´t hesitate to reach out!