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Technology and Depression: Why Is It So Complicated?

M3 India Newsdesk Feb 27, 2017

NIMHANS reports that depression constitutes a significant proportion of India’s nearly 150 million mental disorder patients and depression may reduce the overall lifespan by an average of 5 years. 



Even though health professionals express concern over social media impact on mental health, the connection between technology use and rise in depression is unclear.


Internet, Gadgets, and Depression


Healthcare professionals have coined the term Techno Stress to refer to technology related stress. In 1998, Kraut et al. published one of the principal studies to specify that Internet use in general significantly affects social relationships and participation in community life. In this research, the authors found that increased time spent online is related to a decline in communication with family members, as well as the reduction of the Internet user's social circle, which may further lead to increased feelings of depression and loneliness.Nowadays, nearly 73% of adults regularly use social media apps to connect with people.


Such technology-aided connections promote positive communication but increase exposure to negative influences e.g. abusive comments and envy towards the projected glamour of other people’s lives.


The easy access and constant availability of mobile phone apps fuels addictive behavior which may further induce depression, anxiety, and stress. According to a research conducted by University of Central Florida on the networking behavior of 334 undergraduate students, technology boosts the self-esteem of those with a poor social circle in the real world. Furthermore, a depressed person is susceptible to addiction to technology or non-technology activities such as reading.


Apps To the Rescue?


Conversely, mental health apps are flourishing as tools of treatment for depression. Earlier this month Mohr et al. reported an evaluation of 99 participants who used mental health apps an average of 195.4 (±141) times over 8 weeks. Participants demonstrated significant decreases in the patient health questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) for depression and the generalised anxiety disorder-7 (GAD-7) (p<0.001).


Most psychoeducational apps such as ePsyclinic and Healtheminds offer experienced psychologists, available 24x7, to answer any queries related to depression, assess a patient’s condition, and connect him/her to the right therapist.


Another app, Lantern offers activities and daily tasks that can assist in overcoming emotional turmoil. Apps such as Love Doctor and Your Dost cater to young adults depressed due to relationship issues or other emotional problems. 


In 2014, India's National Mental Health Policy proposed mobile wireless technologies as a means of delivering universal psychiatric care by 2020.


Advantages of Mobile Phone Applications As Mental Health Treatment Tools Are:


1. Portability: patient care is available anywhere and anytime.

2. Low cost: no need to pay for clinic setups.

3. Context-appropriate education, intervention, and monitoring support and services.


Learn more about this topic:


  1. National Mental Health Survey of India, 2015-16
  2. Mobile mental health care - an opportunity for India



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