Mental Health in the Digital Age

Mental Health in the Digital Age
Mental Health in the Digital Age

Forgetting someone’s name, not remembering where you parked the car, misplacing your phone or forgetting why you came into the kitchen – these are very common memory lapses we experience from time to time. But more and more, these moments don’t happen exclusively to seniors, as even people in their 30’s and 40’s are complaining of more frequent memory problems. Dr Gary Small, a top brain expert from the US, was in Bangkok recently during the APAC Wellness Tour. He shared his perspectives on the impact of today’s modern technology on the human brain and how it can shape social behavior. During his talk, he revealed that millions of millennials worldwide are addicted to their electronic devices that have become their main source of cerebral stimulation.

Dr Small shared the results of a survey on office workers aged 25 to 45 in Taiwan last year. The study found that 61% of workers use their devices for six to 10 hours a day and 78% reported feeling that their memory was affected by their overuse of the device. Around 60% admitted to forgetting their personal belongings. In Thailand, a recent report by the Google Consumer Barometer revealed that 53% of Thais use the Internet every day. This figure has increased by 89% since 2013. Seventy percent of Thailand’s population uses smart phones, an increase of 126% since three years ago. “In the modern world, technology has become an inevitable part of our day-today activities, and we find it difficult to get through a day without our smartphones and computers.

People have become so dependent on technology, that it is changing the way we live, work, communicate and interact with others. It is also changing the way our brain works,” he said. Studies show that a significant number of millennials who have grown up in the digital age are showing signs of short term memory dysfunctions and other disorders, and are more distracted and forgetful. “We grew up memorizing phone numbers and birthdays, but now we have devices to do these things for us. Many hours a day are spent attached to smartphones, computers and tablets and the effects to the brain can be damaging. The overuse of technology can affect the balanced development of the brain,” he explained. Nutritional choices that protect the brain: Emphasise: Beans, fruits, vegetables, nuts, olive oil, poultry, whole grains, fish Minimise: Butter, cheese, margarine, fast or fried foods, pastries and sweets.

During his talk, Dr Small emphasized the importance of brain health and the advantages of maintaining a lifestyle that can help keep the brain young and active. His studies reveal that genetics accounts for only part of the risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other signs of mental decline, and that there are other factors such as physical conditioning, stress management, mental stimulation and nutrition that we should be aware of. “The good news is our memory does not have to decline as we age. There are lifestyle strategies associated with keeping the brain sharp. Physical exercise is a must to keep the brain cells active, and mental and memory exercises such as crossword puzzles, Sudoku or learning a new language to build your brain muscle. Less stress could mean a lower risk of memory loss, since people prone to stress are also more likely to develop brain-related diseases,” he said.