MONTHLY BAROMETER – WELLNESS EDITION
By Thierry Malleret, Economist
It’s hard to predict exactly what technological innovation and disruption will do to people’s wellness. For the moment, an increasing number of experts and medical practitioners are considering whether our addiction to technology might not be contributing to the rise in depression observed throughout the world, but most notably in the U.S. and the UK.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 322 million people were afflicted with depression in 2015 (4.4% of the global population), having gone up almost 19% in the past decade. A new book (“The Hacking of the American Mind” by Robert Lustig) argues that this is indeed the case. The crux of the book’s argument is this: technology is all about “digital nudging” and addiction to short-term reward (like compulsive email and social media checking). This delivers pleasure like substance abuse does – which requires higher and higher doses to maintain a similar level of pleasure.
This kind of pleasure collides with happiness (which is about general contentment, not reward), thus making us miserable.