Healthier living despite and with digital technologies

ForDigitHealth project – FAU researches on digitization stress

Constant availability, an increasing flood of information and ever new technologies that become part of our lives and on which we depend. Scientists from the FAU and the universities of Augsburg, Bamberg, Munich and Würzburg are working together to find out how digital technologies and media can be used more healthily. The Bavarian State Ministry of Science and the Arts is funding the ForDigitHealth research association with around 3.35 million euros for a period of four years.

Digitalization leads to fundamental changes in our society and our individual lives. This brings with it opportunities and risks for our health. To some extent, our use of digital technologies and media leads to negative stress, i.e. distress, burnout, depression and other health impairments. On the other hand, digital media can also reduce distress or ensure that stress is increasingly seen as a challenge and thus positively experienced as eustress. In the course of rapid technological developments, there are more and better possibilities to promote health and well-being with the help of artificial intelligence, adaptivity and interactivity of the systems.

“In their everyday lives, many people experience for themselves how digital technologies support us on the one hand, but also how they control us on the other and how we live our lives according to them. You will notice this, for example, if you ask yourself how to cope with all the e-mails at work or if you find yourself looking at your smartphone every five minutes, if there is a new message for you or who has already looked at or commented on your posted picture,” says Prof. Dr. Henner Gimpel from the University of Augsburg, spokesman for the new ForDigitHealth research network. The aim of the network is to investigate the health effects of the increasing presence and intensified use of digital technologies and media – especially with regard to the emergence of digital distress and eustress and their consequences – and to develop and evaluate prevention and intervention options. In this way, the research network should contribute to an appropriate, conscious and health-promoting individual and collective handling of digital technologies and media.

Two subprojects at the FAU

These questions are addressed by proven experts from the disciplines of medicine, psychology, computer science, business informatics and communication science working in eleven individual projects focused on specific aspects of the overarching topics.
The FAU is involved in various subprojects. Prof. Dr. Nicolas Rohleder, holder of the Chair of Health Psychology, is head of the project “Psychobiological Investigation of Digital Stress”, which deals with the biomedical consequences of strains caused by digital technologies and media. He wants to bring digital stress into the laboratory. With his project group, he investigates people who are exposed to artificial digital stress: “For example, the test subjects should solve a task in which they have to concentrate. However, they are constantly disturbed by e-mails or messages on their smartphones,” explains Rohleder. The scientist wants to measure the extent to which this stress affects the cortisol level and the inflammatory parameters. Increased values can lead to cardiovascular disease, cancer or depression in the long term.

To learn more please read here (German only)

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