The digital health generation has arrived

Categories: School of Science, Engineering and Environment

During lockdown and now as we gently ease from our restrictions, have you been searching for and experimented with digital health technologies as a path to well-being?

We are witnessing a Digital Health Generation who are fast turning to technologies for solutions. The question we need to ask is that in this ever evolving and fast-moving world, what do we know about their effectiveness and do they actually promote a healthy lifestyle?

Professor Andy Miah, the University of Salford’s Futures Media expert has had a collaborative piece of research published on the Digital Health Generation that investigates the impact it is having on young people today.  

The study was funded by the Wellcome Trust and brings together the expertise of two universities in the UK with two in Australia. The research examines the effect of digital technologies in the area of health on young people’s learning, identity and ultimately their health.  The study was conducted over two years and highlights insights from over 1,000 young people and families across two different continents.

The key findings from the study are:

  • 75% of survey respondents said that they owned their first mobile/tablet between the ages of 8-11 years.
  • 62% of survey respondents said adults did not check their internet use, 72% said that they can use any technology to which they have access and 68% reported that they can do ‘what they want’ when it comes to searching online for health information.
  • 45% of participants worried about finding the correct information online and many are looking for more, adult guidance on how to make sense of this information.

Professor Miah said: “The past ten years has witnessed a huge growth in digital health technologies from wearable devices to mobile apps and a proliferation of content across all social platforms. Our research demonstrates that young people want more guidance from experts and more opportunities to develop their confidence in digital space.  It also shows that there are huge pressures on young people to be digitally present and everyone in caring roles needs to take on board.

The in-depth investigation found that the main concern for young people was misinformation fearing that the wrong information can spiral into panic and anxiety concerning their health. There are huge complexities associated with Digital Health that can be both positive as well as problematic.  The report calls for a much-needed balance between technology and mental well-being.  There is a strong case for greater education on Digital Health literacy to allow young people to navigate the wealth of information that is available allowing them to make informed decisions.  There is also an urgent need to find a healthy relationship between the NHS and digital brands, to bring greater opportunities to promote wellness within these environments.

Read the published paper.

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