Workplace burnout, fatigue, anxiety, worry, and restlessness have become synonymous with the millennial lifestyle. While personal life is equally important as professional commitments, the long working hours and mental pressures have gradually weakened the hold over personal and social lives of millennials. Though, a cause of global concern, the situation is far worse in the Indian context. As stated by a Wall Street Journal report in 2016, on an average, millennial Indians spend 52 hours a week at work – far more than their counterparts in 25 countries. It is no surprise that amidst this chaos, the millennials in India are far more vulnerable to depression and other mental-health issues. Effects could be well understood by rapid expansion of gig-economy (flexible or contract work with one or more firms) in India. As per Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019, 94 percent of millennials in India are willing to join the gig-economy compared to 84 percent at global level. What is worth noticing here is the driving factor behind opting for gig-jobs – 41 percent millennials seek flexible work hours and 37 percent seek work-life balance, an indication of stress, depression, and burnout.
Cases of burnout have been on the rise among millennials and not sparing even the young generations or Gen Z. According to a study, young people are suffering with mental illness at about three times rate of the general population. While this could be attributed to multiple causes, increased use of digital technologies like smartphones along with social media has a large association with the problem. A study published in the Journal of Child Development has shown a direct association between heavy daily usage of technology and increased risk of mental health problems. Based on research by the University of Pennsylvania, the use of social media platforms is linked to decrease well-being, depression, and loneliness. The ‘24×7 connected’ work culture and social-media obsession has led to reduced face-to-face interactions, sleep deprivation, a sense of physical and emotional isolation, state of anxiety, poor health, and a disconnect from the real world.
If not controlled, this situation could worsen and could have a huge impact on our society. To the rescue comes digital detoxification. The concept is gradually gaining attention with increasing awareness about the ill effects of high screen time on our well-being. While ways like mobile apps enabling to monitor and control the screen time, travel packages without internet connections in hotels, and the like, are already in existence, there is a need to develop a structured mechanism to offload oneself from this digital burden, enabling to maintaining a balance between real and virtual world; while maintaining the very essence of our existence.
Hospitals can play a vital role in addressing the situation. With all the amenities and manpower already in place for scanning, evaluating, and treating the mental-health issues, comprehensive digital detoxification therapies could be taken as a niche offering. Since, self-control plays a crucial role while dealing individually with the issue and often leads to discontinuation, hospital-based programs supported by 24×7 helpline, individual monitoring, regular assessment, and evaluating the improvement in the condition could be helpful. Regular counselling sessions, yoga and meditation classes, breathwork, and more, could be easily offered within the hospital under the guidance of trained professionals. A digital detox club, supporting local population, employees, patients, and their attendants could be organized, enhancing face to face interaction and social stimuli. Hospitals can also extend these services to the corporates, PSUs, RWAs, and educational institutions.
Further, at the policy level, provision can be made to cover mental health issue arising due to digital addiction in the health insurance. Training on digital de-addiction shall be a mandatory part of school and university curriculum, including parents as the supporters. To strengthen it further, educational institutions, workplaces, and other such entities should incentivize digital breaks, promote human interactions via various open talk forums, and should work toward developing a sustainable culture of self-control. It is time to help the digitally connected society reconnect with the real world.