Impact of technology on mental health

Eugene Farrell, AXA Health’s mental health lead

How does technology impact your mental health?

13 June 2023

Technology is all around us. Whether you’re reading the latest news on a work laptop, scrolling social media, or opening a health app to check your daily steps – there’s no escaping it.

But how does all this mindless scrolling or round-the-clock news impact our mental health? Are you finding the right balance? And can you notice the signs telling you to switch off and take a digital detox?

Eugene Farrell, AXA Health’s mental health lead, explores why we all should be checking in on ourselves and asking if we need a break from the screen. Of course, there are benefits to having health information and support at the touch of a button (for example connecting with long distance friends), however, Eugene highlights how you could also be reaping the benefits of putting the tech away.

How much are we using technology?

Tablets, laptops, phones, smart watches, the majority of us use them on a daily basis but what are the numbers exactly? The latest stats from 2020 show that as a nation:

  • 94% of UK homes had internet access by the end of 20201
  • we spent an average of 3 hours 37 minutes a day on smartphones, tablets and computers1
  • 39% of all UK adults used their smartphones for gaming1
  • fifty years since the first email was sent, 88% of UK online adults now use an email service1
  • in September 2020, 15 to 16-year-olds spent nearly five hours a day online1
  • almost all adults aged 16 to 44 years, were recent internet users (99%), compared with 54% of adults aged 75 years and over.2

These numbers may seem alarming but connecting to the internet or using your phone is part of daily life for most of us. And there are benefits to having services now online, as well as information at the touch of a button.

For example, Mind’s 2019 men’s mental health report stated that 22% of men would be more likely to seek support if they felt worried or low if it was made available online.3

In the 2022 GP Patient Survey, it highlighted that: “around 3 in 10 patients said they’d used online services in the last 12 months to order repeat prescriptions” and “approximately 3 in 5 patients had tried to use their GP practice website to access information or services”.4

But how do you know if you’re using technology too much?

Do I need a digital detox?

Verywell Mind describes a digital detox as “a period of time when a person refrains from using tech devices…often seen as a way to focus on real-life social interactions without distractions. By forgoing digital devices, at least temporarily, people can let go of the stress that stems from constant connectivity.”5

  • Are you scrolling on your phone late into the night, keeping your mind active and making it harder to sleep?
  • Do you constantly check your phone, always having it there next to you?
  • Is your phone the first thing you reach for after waking up?
  • Is what you’re seeing online making you feel angry or anxious?
  • Are you neglecting responsibilities in favour of screen time?6

If you work within the digital space, then of course you can’t avoid all tech. However, if you’re struggling to set boundaries and recognise that any of the above is affecting your mental wellbeing then it might be time to undergo a digital detox.

What are the benefits?

We’re not talking about ditching the tech forever, as there are some steps you can try before committing to a detox for a longer period of time:

  • If you’re watching TV in the evenings, try putting your phone in a separate room.
  • Switch to an alarm clock rather than relying on your phone, you can then charge it in a separate room and not be tempted by a bedtime scroll.
  • Try turning off the TV an hour or half an hour before bed and use this time to unwind and perhaps try some mindfulness techniques.

By taking some time to check in with yourself and ask “how am I doing”, it can help reset and improve your mental wellbeing. For example:

Reduced stress

Allow yourself some time to disconnect from negative news or from any social accounts that instantly make you feel unhappy. If you can pause your source of stress, you might find that the fear of missing out, worried thoughts or any feelings of comparison start to decrease.


Have you ever totalled up how long you spend online before or after your work day? Instead of scrolling you could be strolling in nature and taking in your surroundings; appreciating the here and now.

>Read more: 10 health benefits of mindfulness

Better sleep

The blue light emitted from most of our devices suppresses the secretion of melatonin7, meaning our sleep patterns get disrupted. Try reducing screen time and keeping your bedroom as a space to relax and unwind, rather than as a room where you watch TV or browse your phone.

The lack of sleep can impact your health, for example increase blood pressure. “The less you sleep, the higher your blood pressure may go. People who sleep six hours or less may have steeper increases in blood pressure.”8

Eye health

Spending long periods of time staring at a screen can lead to eyestrain. “Symptoms of digital eyestrain can include blurred vision and dry eyes”9 which can also be caused by screen brightness and glare, as well as duration.

The American Optometric Association recommend using the 20-20-20 rule:

“After every 20 minutes of screen time, take a 20-second break to look at something at least 20 feet away.”10

Whether you use your normal tech time to take a walk in nature or to meet up with friends or family, it’s all about finding what works for you. If you can strike a balance, then taking a digital detox when you start to notice the signs you’re doing too much, can help improve both your mental and physical health.


  1. Online Nation, 2021 report - Ofcom
  2. Internet users, UK: 2020 – Office for National Statistics
  3. Get it off your chest – Mind report 2019
  4. GP Patient Survey 2022 – NHS
  5. What Is a Digital Detox? – Verywell Mind
  6. 5 Reasons You Need a Digital Detox and How to Get Started - World Council for Health
  7. The Benefits of a Digital Detox- World Council for Health
  8. Is it true that sleep deprivation can cause high blood pressure? – Mayo Clinic
  9. Negative effects of technology: What to know – Medical News Today
  10. Eyestrain – Medical News Today