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How Does Technology Affect Our Mental Health?

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Look around the next time you’re at a restaurant. You’ll see toddlers on iPads, kids posting on Instagram, and adults whose phones are placed right next to their plates, ready to be picked up at the first ding, buzz or ring. Many of us lament how technology has changed our lives, but is it really bad for us? And, if so, what can be done about it? Let’s take a look at what science tells us about the effects of technology on our mental health.

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There have also been many innovative ways in which technology has assisted mental health. It has changed the way our country provides mental health resources, especially in terms of suicide prevention. People can call for assistance and support in times of emergency. Crisis centers can reach more people to prevent suicides from occurring.

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The authors of a 2016 systematic review discussed the link between social networks and mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Their research found mixed results. People who had more positive interactions and social support on these platforms appeared to have lower levels of depression and anxiety. However, the reverse was also true. People who perceived that they had more negative social interactions online and who were more prone to social comparison experienced higher levels of depression and anxiety. So, while there does appear to be a link between social media and mental health, a significant determining factor is the types of interactions people feel they are having on these platforms.

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Konrath, S.H., O’Brien, E.H., & Hsing, C. (2011). Changes in dispositional empathy in American
college students over time: A meta-analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 15(2), 180-198.

Konrath, S., Bushman, B.J., &Campbell, W.K. (2006). Attenuating the link between threatened
egotism and aggression. Psychological Science 17(11), 995-1001

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How Does Technology Affect Our Mental Health?
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