Paging Dr. Robot…How technology has affected our health

By Tom Addison, Senior Sales & Marketing Research Executive

The question: “how technology affects our lives?” is one that has many answers — not all of which can be covered in one blog. But I will have a go at explaining some of the ways that technology has changed our everyday lives.

Some people argue that technology is making the world a better place, while others say that technology is having the opposite effect. Let’s explore both sides.

For almost all of us, technology plays an invaluable part in our normal day. We use technology from the time we wake up to when we go to sleep. A recent study by Ofcom found that Britons check their phones on average every 12 minutes. This is something I can relate to; I’m woken up in the morning by the alarm on my phone, so it’s the first thing I look at and it’s also most likely the last thing I look at before I go to sleep. This might seem like an unhealthy habit but having a phone that can allow me to manage my life and connect with anyone that I know, regardless of where they are in the world, has meant that I have been able to show friends and family experiences and moments that they would never have seen if it wasn’t for technology. But there are wider benefits, beyond social ones.

Technology has also helped the world in more significant ways than people checking Instagram to see how many likes they got from a photo they took of their dinner last night. Today’s smartphones can be used as health monitors as they can measure your heart rate and tell you when you should be active, among other features. Technology has also helped develop medicine and produce drugs, such as the vaccine for polio, which has seen a drop of 99.9% in the number of cases since 1988. Pacemakers can now be fitted with Wi-Fi capabilities that allow data to be sent from the person fitted with the pacemaker to a certain hospital giving the doctors real-time updates of the individuals condition.

Projects being led by Health Data Research UK funded with £37.5 million via the Industrial Strategy Challenge fund have set up Digital Innovations Hubs with the aim to utilise scientific information and emerging technologies to develop new drugs and devices. This could lead to major discoveries that will impact people’s lives forever, be it longer life expectancy in third world countries or helping people with long-term illnesses experience a higher quality of life.

On the other hand, it can be argued that technology has made the world a worse place. The amount of data that is collected on citizens, combined with cases of cyber-attacks doubling in 2017, has meant some people feel more vulnerable about their personal information getting into the hands of the wrong people. Especially with medical information, highlighted by the NHS WannaCry hack last year that disrupted hospitals and reportedly put lives at risk.

Technology is also impacting on our mental health. It can also be said that even though we can be connected to anyone, anywhere and have endless information available to us, technology is making us as a society more unsociable. A lot of the time people choose to engage with their phones instead of engaging in conversation with the person next to them, which can lead to social isolation, anxiety and depression.

Cyber-bullying is also a much bigger problem than it was 10 years ago, with one in eight young people in the UK being bullied on social media in 2017 according to Ofcom.

There is an app for everything – even to help people with mental health issues with apps such as Calm and meditation apps like Headspace. These apps can give people access to help that they wouldn’t have been able to access before. With a little bit of faith in humanity, you’ll see that there will always be people trying to work against misuse of technology to see that it is used for the greater good. The rise of cyber-crime has been met with a rise in the number of cyber-security firms working to protect personal data and data belonging to businesses.

I believe if we choose not to accept or invest in technology, we will stagnate and be left behind while others embrace technology and reap the benefits of it.