Technology and our Health
For some time now, the impact of technology on our mental and physical health has been investigated, and the results haven’t always been positive. Already living in a fast-paced world in which we cram far more than even one generation past would have considered feasible, technology has added to this activity-stuffing craze by making it possible to attend to so many more stimuli a lot more often. Rampant adoption of cellular phones made us always available, all of the time, more than a decade ago, and smartphones add email and social media connectivity to this accessibility leaving most people utterly flummoxed if they don’t receive a response to their communications within minutes.
On top of this always-on availability, technology has made multi-tasking a commonplace aspect of all of our lives, and if we’re not completing at least three functions at once, most of us feel idle or unproductive. And yet, mental health practitioners are extolling the virtues of tech-free days, our GPs are insisting we get outside more often, soak up some sun, breath some fresh air, and use our muscles, and an ever-increasing number of employers are searching for better ways to manage employee health and well-being through flexible work regimes and improved collaboration schemes. Fortunately, technological development tends to be an intuitive and innovative practice, and we’re already seeing a host of devices that encourage better work-life-technology integration and support well-being.
Getting Us Moving
An early line of wearable tech, fitness bands and monitors have been promoting a more active lifestyle from the get-go, and the latest devices provide us with detailed analytics of our activities, goals for greater physical health benefits, and the option to connect with friends for further encouragement and sharing. Some insurers are even rewarding clients for the achievement of fitness goals with the recognition that healthier members cost less in the long run. But simple step counters and heart rate monitors are less exciting than a few of the latest wearable devices uses to measure and analyse physical activity. In the sporting arena, we’re seeing smart goggles that deliver real-time information to wearers, sleeves that examine golf swings and bowling precision, and exercise mats able to assess a user’s alignment and encourage better practices. Technology isn’t only getting us moving, it’s ensuring we’re moving in better ways too.
Monitoring our Health
However, today’s wearables aren’t designed only to encourage activity; instead, new research finds that wearables are able to uncover early symptoms of sickness and disease through the tracking of vital signs. And developers interested in the healthcare aspects of technology are already coming out with devices able to monitor, and even regulate, emotional well-being. One smart device recently demoed acts to change heartbeat rhythms, with a slower heart rate purportedly encouraging feelings of calm, and a more rapid rhythm energizing the wearer. Furthermore, in some of the latest research into artificial intelligence, developers are experimenting with computers able to recognize and act on human emotions, potentially leading to devices better able to care for and manage patients in a healthcare setting through improved emotional and psychological perception.
From bioresponsive content able to adapt to changes in biological indicators such as heart rate and skin temperature, to artificial intelligence assisting professionals in improved diagnosis and management of patients, technology is affecting our wellbeing in a variety of positive way. Some of the devices we already have access to do little more than encourage us to disconnect once in a while, and other more sophisticated tools can recognize dangerous symptoms early enough to ensure the necessary intervention are taken. Gladly, technological advancements are going well beyond connecting and cramming more into our lives, and instead are helping mitigate some of the risks a tech-enriched lifestyle brings.
By Jennifer Klostermann