The Positive Effects of Technology on Mental Health

December 5, 2019 • Shannon Flynn


Usually, we see the effects of technology on mental health as all negative, especially when it comes to young people. Indeed, tech can have that effect. However, technology — along with many other things — should not be evaluated in absolutes.

Although technological progress can negatively impact your mental well-being, its effects can also be positive. Here are some positive effects of technology on mental health and young people.

Why Do People Turn to Technology for Help?

If you’re depressed, you might feel worse after seeing glimpses of friends’ seemingly perfect lives on social media. If you isolate yourself due to anxiety, things like streaming content and online games make you even less eager to leave the house because you can stay entertained without going anywhere.

Many young people with mental health issues don’t know where to get help. Others are scared even to admit they need it. However, progress happens when it’s clear there’s no shame in reaching out to others. Technology may help that viewpoint become more common.

Dartmouth University researchers analyzed more than 3,000 comments posted on YouTube videos created by people who had severe mental illnesses. After looking for trends in the feedback, they determined  YouTube helped mentally ill people feel less alone by acting as a peer support mechanism. Moreover, it aided them in coping with some of the fear caused by living with mental health problems.

The Positive Effects of Technology on Mental Health

Outside of YouTube, numerous apps can help you connect with others and share challenges associated with mental health. Peer support should not replace professional help, but it can make it easier to get in touch with those who are going through similar challenges.

You may let peers know you’re going through tough times by posting things on social media. Researchers recently used artificial intelligence (AI) to screen people’s medical records and Facebook posts for signs of depression.

The AI algorithm helped professionals pinpoint the disorder three months before people received formal diagnoses. Using AI like that raised some privacy concerns, and it’s too early to say whether researchers will rely on that technique more broadly to identify which people need mental health help.

However, the internet offers a wealth of resources that urge individuals to be more open about their mental health challenges, rather than staying quiet and cut off from friends.

What Technology Has an Impact on Mental Health?

Chatbots are gaining momentum in sectors like marketing, but they also have useful applications for improved mental health care. Most young people are well-accustomed to conversations via text, and many prefer them to other communication methods.

Some companies noticed a need to fill and developed chatbots that support good mental health. The bots typically ask you to describe how you’re doing. Some also use research-backed methods of mental health assistance, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Chatbots are like peer support, in that they should not replace professional help. However, they could fill gaps between in-person sessions.

Similarly, many therapists provide appointments via platforms such as Skype or dedicated telemedicine apps. You can participate in voice, text-based or video chats. Those could work especially well if you live in rural areas or otherwise don’t have convenient access to mental health care.

Then, outside of chatbot or therapy sessions, there’s a host of apps that showcase the beneficial effects of technology on mental health. They help you track moods, set up safety plans to use if you’re feeling suicidal and more.

How Wearable Technology Can Improve Mental Health

The manufacturers of fitness wearables claim their gadgets increase physical activity. The results of a recent study indicate the benefits extend to mental health, too. The survey, which involved people in the United Kingdom aged 16 or over, found that 55% noticed improved mental health after using a wearable.

Some wearable gadgets have features that measure a person’s heart rate and take them through guided breathing if they seem stressed. Plus, health care professionals often recommend individuals with mental health issues engage in regular exercise. Any activity tracker could encourage you to be less sedentary, which may, in turn, enhance your outlook.

The popularity of wearables could also put you at ease if you don’t want to use a gadget that makes you stand out from the crowd. Since wearables are so ubiquitous, no one needs to know if you’re using one for mental health reasons.

Technology Has Almost Limitless Potential  

Poor mental health can pose obstacles to people of any age. As these examples show, there are numerous advantageous effects of technology on mental health. You likely grew up with and love tech in all forms, which is what makes these resources so beneficial.