Technology friend or foe? Pandemic tech use has affected our physical -- and mental health

Although many of us have learned more about technology since the pandemic started, people are feeling teched out and their health is suffering, according to a new survey.

While technology has always played an important role in people's lives, its significance has increased over the past year as we hunkered down at home. But how has our use of technology changed during the pandemic -- and has our health suffered as a result?

Technology and the internet is an essential part of Americans' lives. But their physical and mental health has suffered through the pandemic with eyestrain and screen fatigue predominant.

Franklyn, MA-based mobility and accessory company Stannah surveyed over 1,000 Americans about their technology usage during the pandemic. It wanted to find out how technology shaped our lives during the pandemic.

It discovered, unsurprisingly, that on average, people have been spending two additional hours per day in front of a screen -- up to 7.9 hours of screen time during the pandemic. Screens are getting larger too.

As most people switched to working from home, their media habits changed. They no longer need to access their social media or streaming services like movies on their mobile screens, switching to larger screens when possible.

Mobile app installs increased as we sought out online entertainment apps and games which are used by almost three in five respondents.

Almost four in five (75.7%) of survey respondents felt that technology has become more valuable during the pandemic, and over four in five (83%) had a positive sentiment towards technology.

In fact, three in five (59%) reported that they had improved their tech skills and abilities since the start of the pandemic and felt that relevant tech skills were important to know.

Technology friend or foe Pandemic tech use has affected our physical - and mental health zdnet

Stannah

Replying to emails (90.5%), setting up a new computer (85.9%), updating a phone (85.4%), and setting up a Wi-Fi router (85.1%) are the tech skills people say are important to know.

However, only three in four (75.1%) were comfortable at setting up a WI-FI router with over one in six (17.2%) of Baby Boomers saying it was one of their top tech struggles along with connecting a laptop to a TV (20.3%) and posting on social media (13.7%).

Tech also has a negative impact on our health with two in five respondents saying that they felt tech'd out and seven in ten reported negative health effects using technology.

Two in five (43.3%) experienced eyestrain, one in three (32.5%) experienced bad posture, and three in four (74%) experienced screen fatigue. Mental health effects were insomnia (19.5%), isolation (20.8% and anxiety which was experienced by one in four respondents (24%).

Also: Are your eyes strained from too much screen time? Try a monitor upgrade

Although people do try to reduce screen fatigue by giving themselves breaks, adjusting the screen brightness and adjusting the room lighting.

Other tips include try to have a daily email detox, and eat one meal per day without your screen in front of you. Get up and move around at least once an hour, go for a walk, or a run, and get your body moving.

Keeping your body mobile and your brain active will certainly compensate for the long hours spent in front of a screen – no matter what size the screen happens to be.