Digital technology has been blasted time and again for causing mental health problems among the millennials and Gen Z’ers. It does not seem to have the same impact on baby boomers.
How will the digitally exposed millennials fare in mental health when they become the elderly?
Technology’s exponential growth might not let us answer this question.
American Psychological Association researchers have found that the percentage of young people in the US experiencing certain types of mental health disorders has spiked majorly in the past decade, albeit, with no corresponding increase in older adults.
Digital media usage seems to have a more severe impact on adolescents and young adults, owing to the fact that social lives of older adults have been more stable in the last ten years and might have changed less.
Considering millennials are showing more mental health issues in their adulthood than the baby boomers did in their adulthood, should we expect more or even newer mental health problems among future millennial older adults?
The Future Always Surprises
Maybe, but then maybe not. We have all the reasons to assume that things will certainly not remain the way they are today. User data breaches and privacy issues are already beginning to change the way social media is viewed, both by users as well as the platforms.
This means we can expect revolutionary changes to occur by the time millennials begin to retire. For example, Facebook is already losing the younger crowd from its user base, though Facebook-owned Instagram is gaining them.
At the same time, we can expect newer, more transformative social networks, platforms, and technologies to come about by the time millennials start retiring. Just as seniors now are enjoying the benefits of ICT, without incurring ill effects like anxiety and addiction, seniors of the future might be enjoying technology that we haven’t dreamed of yet.
Will video chats still be around in the distant future or will there be newer tech like holograms, virtual reality, AR, or something that we haven’t imagined yet? Last month, according to The Korea Herald, two mobile carriers from South Korea and the US held the world’s first live hologram international call service with 5G network.
After all, those born in the 1920s or 1930s could never have predicted that, by the time they were in their 80s, they’d be having video chats with people thousands of miles away on a device that fits in their hands.
The exponential nature of technological change ensures that mind-boggling breakthroughs are yet to happen; and with these breakthroughs will come new societal norms to stir human sentiment.
Impact of Technology May Vary
Research, like this review, suggests that Information Communication Technology (ICT) could be an effective tool to tackle social isolation among the elderly. However, it also says that it might not suit every senior.
The study also suggests that future research should identify elderly people who can most benefit from ICT use in reducing social isolation. Also, results may vary with different types of ICT, such as mobile phone-based instant messaging apps.
If technology can have varied impact on a single population in the same time period, it’s effect can then be hard to predict in a population in the future, namely the millennials, the oldest of whom will turn 38 this year. This means, it is unlikely that we will continue to see the same results in research.
For one thing, the elderly millennial will be highly aware and educated. They will hardly require help with ICT. Even if highly new-fangled technology is introduced, they will know how to learn it.
On the down side, some of them might be retiring with social media addiction, exposure to Internet, and the anxiety that it brings. While baby boomers saw the transitions in technology, millennials grew up with it.
Still, technology is fast becoming highly personalized. In the future, it is likely to become even more so, serving to fulfil the exact needs of an individual user. So, while grandparents of tomorrow adopt new technology, technology too might adapt to their nature, bringing changes in mental health conditions.