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Anxiety, Stress, Depression, and Technology

Jaene Tenorio, Nutritionist
February 23, 2017
Does technology have a role in how much anxiety and stress we feel?

Remember when we used to write and mail letters and it took days or months to reach its destination, and then we had to wait even more days or months to receive an answer? I remember. Even though I am almost not old enough to have experienced that for long, I still sent some letters before the new communication models came along. I do not remember, at this time, hearing so much about anxiety, stress, depression. The time it took for a letter to arrive was expected without stress. Anxiety, depression, and stress were very little known words. But today? Who has never heard of these? Who has never felt anxious or stressed?


Many patterns of behavior and lifestyles, in general, have undergone major changes in recent years. I do not mean to say that technology is to blame for everything nor that it is the sole cause of these changes, but it is part of this context of changes that has generated the "boom" of anxiety and stress in today's world.


Though we continue to have the same 24 hours in a day as we have always had for over a thousand years, we have the impression that we can not accomplish everything we want to get done in a day. With the emergence of technology, we are used to having immediate answers. One click and everything you want to say or show is instantly on the other side of the world. We no longer spend long hours researching in libraries, opening books upon books for information. With a key few words and a click and all books open to you on the page you want. I mean—forgive me—you don't even need to write or click, just verbally ask your smartphone. Maybe someday we'll only need to think. Everything is fast. There's a lot of information in a single moment. Then, when we do not have immediate answers, when we cannot do everything we wanted and imagined to do in a certain period of time, when we take a little longer than we want, then those words we hear so often appear—anxiety and stress.


We take on many responsibilities and activities simultaneously, as if we too were a machine, but without the actual ability to deliver.


Anxiety disorder is a known disease. According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) between 1990 and 2013, the number of people with depression or anxiety increased by almost 50%, from 416 million to 615 million.


We feel a need to be up to date on everything and everyone (yes and everyone). With the constant increase in the use of social networks (a means of technological advancement), the need to be in on what is happening with others has also generated not only increased anxiety and stress but also depression. The conscious or unconscious comparison with the life of others (which is usually perceived a very happy life), a need to constantly have something good and exciting to show the world, a concern with acceptance (how many likes and comments a post gets)—all of this generates more and more anxiety.


A survey of young Americans from 1938 to 2007 showed that five times as many students suffer from anxiety and other mental disorders in recent years compared to people of the same age who lived in the late 1930s, in the midst of the Great Depression. The source of this increase, according to the study, is that there is currently a higher demand for appearance, wealth, and social status.


So what is today's tip?
- Turn OFF a little. Engage in exercise and other activities too that keep you away from apps.


- Use fewer social networks less. Take a look at how many hours of your day you spend on social networks and other apps and reduce that time as much as possible. Have moderation and, preferably, choose only one or two social networks at most. Using multiple platforms increases the potential for anxiety.


- Write a letter to a friend once in a while.


- Read at least one "real" book. Feel its pages away from the screen. You can also take the time to visit the library.


- Visit your friends, and set times to talk the old-fashioned way (and remember not to keep your phone in your hand, just leave it aside for an emergency call).


-And especially when you're at home, spend more time with your family and less with your cell phone.


This article was originally written in Portuguese. Find it in Portuguese here.