Men's Health Week: Men's Health and the Internet
This week is Men’s Health Week, which is an annual event aiming to raise awareness of preventable health issues which disproportionately affect men, and to give them encouragement to seek help and tackle these issues. This year’s theme is ‘men’s health and the internet,’ which hopes to raise awareness on the impact of technology and social media on mental health.
The Internet and Mental Health
The internet, and our smartphones, act as a dopamine hit which is always to hand. Dopamine is one of the key chemical messengers in the brain, creating feelings of pleasure and reward. It makes you feel good and therefore, the potential to become addicted to an app on your phone or to your favourite video game, is huge.
The Men’s Health Forum states that there is evidence that some addictions which particularly affect men, such as gambling, have been made much worse by having around the clock access to the internet and smartphones. Every single app we use is designed to keep us using them. Our internet usage might release dopamine into the brain, however our experience of the using the internet is not always positive. Misinformation, peer pressure and content which provides unrealistic expectations of others’ lives, can take a toll on our mental health and lead to feelings of anxiety.
According to the Mental Health Foundation approximately 1-in-8 men have a common mental health problem such as anxiety, stress or depression. Men are also less likely to access psychological therapies than women: only 36% of referrals to NHS talking therapies are for men. They also report lower levels of life satisfaction than women, according to the Government’s national well-being survey, which could be another contributing factor as to why the internet and smartphones hold such a significance in men’s mental health.
You may not feel like your tech use is affecting your mental health, but even so, try to ask yourself these questions:
- Do you feel anxious if you don’t have access to your phone (you’ve forgotten it, or it’s run out of battery)?
- Do you feel as if you lose time scrolling mindlessly on your phone or the internet?
- Do you ‘doomscroll’ or ‘doomsurf’ (referring to excessively scrolling through negative news online)?
- Do you spend an increased time each day on apps which could cost you money, such as gambling apps?
- Does your phone or internet usage impact negatively on your relationships or work?
If you feel as if you could answer yes to any of the above questions, it might be time to take a screen break. There are some helpful tips to help combat the negative impact from internet usage. The Men’s Health Forum has launched the CAN DO challenge, which are five things we can do that are scientifically proven to help us feel better. The five ways of the challenge are:
- Connect - connect with other people (eg. call an old friend or family member)
- (Be) Active - move your body (eg. go for a run/walk/swim/dance)
- Notice - take notice of the environment around you (eg. turn off your phone for an hour and look around)
- Discover - learn something new (eg. read a book you haven't read before)
- Offer (or give) - do something for someone else (eg. volunteer for a local community group)
The idea is to try and do all of these five things in one day when you feel as if you are spending too much time on your phone, or if the internet is negatively impacting on you. The Men’s Health Forum also have some really helpful manuals to help combat further issues relating to mental health such as, Man MOT for The Mind, gambling and men’s health and Beat, Stress, Feel Better. On the last Friday of Men’s Health Week is Wear Blue Friday, where you can choose to wear blue to bring awareness to the topic of the week, and in support of Men’s Health.
We are all guilty of spending too much time on our phones and the internet, as we live in a world where the use of tech is the ‘norm’ in our day-to-day lives. However, if you feel as if it is negatively impacting on your mood, relationships, work or general wellbeing, it is important to seek help.
We hope that you have found this article informative and helpful. If you are looking for more support or advice on Men’s Health, please take a look at the links below.
- Men’s Health Forum
- Health Assured
- Mental Health Foundation
- NHS – Men’s Health Week
- Man Health