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Nurturing your mental health during a pandemic

Mounir Jamil

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Nurturing your Mental Health during a Pandemic

Certain COVID-19-related words such as social distancing, pandemic, and quarantine are enough to make anyone feel anxious. While maintaining a distance from others helps mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, it does take a certain toll on our mental health. Luckily technology presents possible solutions for those of us who are battling with depression and anxiety.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has surveyed upwards of 5,000 American adults and has found that symptoms for anxiety and depression skyrocketed between April and June this year. The number quadrupled, as approximately four times the amount of people have reported that they are depressed in 2020 compared to 2019.

From the population surveyed, almost 10% claimed that they seriously considered suicide over the past 30 days, and ¼ of young people aged 18-24 admitted the same. With this survey indicating that 40% of US adults are struggling with mental health conditions or substance abuse, researchers wondered if certain factors such as unemployment, lack of school structure, isolation, and other financial concerns were key stressors amid the pandemic.

CDC offers telehealth as a practical and effective means of treatment for COVID-19 mental health conditions. Earlier in March, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that it will be expanding what Medicare would pay for regarding virtual visits. Patients will have more access to e-visits after payment for doctors, clinical psychologists and licensed clinical workers have been approved.

Not everyone is comfortable with visiting a doctor for their mental health. Mobile apps offer practical and convenient methods that are applied in face to face therapy.

Take Sanvello as an example. Sanvello now has more than three million people using their app for peer support, self-care, therapy, and coaching. The app offers daily mood tracking, coping tools to manage stress, anxiety and depression, along with guided journeys. You can speak directly to a coach that is trained in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or even join a live video group class.  A study from the Oregon Health and Science University has found that adults aged over 60 that used video chat applications had almost half the risk of depression. In the survey, researchers found that using texting and social media showed little effects in boosting spirits. However Skype and FaceTime seemed to be better tools for alleviating depressive symptoms and uplifting one’s mental health.

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Junior social media strategist with a degree in business. Passionate about technology, film, music and video games.

MedTech

Film industry revenues devastated amid pandemic

Adnan Kayyali

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film industry

Few can forget the feeling of walking down the carpeted hallway, arms burdened with overpriced snacks and drinks, walking down that familiar noise-proof hallway.

Sadly, many have not felt the anticipation of the lights finally going off after a series of trailers and ads in a while. Movie theatres lay empty, popcorn machines getting rusty, and film industry revenues have tanked.

Box office revenue had been growing consistently for the past three decades prior to 2020.

Since last year, however, film industry revenues went down nearly 80 percent in a sharp dip, from just under $12 billion in 2019 to around $2.1 billion in the United States. Consumer spending during the pandemic had gone mainly to groceries, household supplies and home entertainment.

Spending went down sharply with almost every other consumer product especially the more luxurious ones as people keep a tight fist around their funds in uncertain times.

Suffice to say that going to the movie theatre is not exactly a recreational or unwinding experience when faced with the prospect of being in a room with even a single infected person. It is for that reason that ticket sales in the U.S. have hit a practical rock bottom.

In December of 2020, Warner Bros responded to the sudden drop in film industry revenues and movie ticket purchases by making all their 17 movies slated for 2021 available on HBO max. If people cannot go to the movies, the movies will just have to go to them. This is an unprecedented move that nobody would have thought possible one year ago, but the times have changed a great deal.

“No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do,” said Ann Sarnoff, Chair and CEO of Warner Media Studios and Networks Group, said in a statement. “We know new content is the lifeblood of theatrical exhibition, but we have to balance this with the reality that most theaters in the U.S. will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021,” she added.

The future of the movie theatres and film as we were used to it is quite uncertain. 

The home streaming revenue model will just have to take over as the new reality, but hopefully people’s love of the theatre experience can be rekindled in a post-pandemic world, allowing us to go back to paying way too much for a soft drink that is sixty percent ice.

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MedTech

Did the Pandemic bring the next Tech Bubble?

Mounir Jamil

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tech bubble

As the winds of the tech world keep on turning, updates brought forward by the pandemic and changes in the playing field can be clearly seen.

This comes at a time when some experts speculate that we are on the verge of another tech bubble almost similar to the real estate bubble witnessed by Dubai and many other countries many years ago.

While these times may prove to be intriguing to any tech enthusiast, they are certainly dangerous and troublesome for those navigating it.

After a small whiff of being the world’s richest man Tesla founder and billionaire Elon Musk fell back to second richest person in the world after Tesla’s stocks fell by nearly 8 percent this week. Earlier this year, a spur of the moment type tweet caused him to lose $14 billion in Tesla market value in hours.

This tweet alone caused the $14 billion plummet in Tesla’s market value, alongside $3 billion to be knocked off in Musk’s own stake,  not to mention the price he had to pay: Removing him for head of Tesla board.

The tech world will literally chew you and spit you back out, and as the industry witnesses constant change, adding a pandemic only makes it harder to navigate. Several thoughts and ideas have begun to spring up on the internet, speculating the dawn on a new tech bubble, one like that of 2001.

With Musk’s anecdote in mind, one can’t but help think about the other tech and communication companies that are regarded as winners in a post-COVID world as stock pricing soars and other parts of the industry falter.

Investors have bundled together a handful of names, most notably the dubbed FAANGM stocks (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google, and Microsoft).

These businesses have managed to sail against the currents,  defying odds as they performed comparatively well during the onslaught of the pandemic.

It is important to note, however, that these big tech companies, were already well armed with the means necessary to accommodate for major shifts brought forward by the pandemic namely the shift to remote work, increased need for personalized in-home entertainment, and definitely the increased e-commerce needs.

Needless to say, these big tech companies are well established, with solid cash flows and stable balance sheets, the underlying point is that the strength of recent performance is creating a momentum that is driving more investors to speculate and pay less attention to price, the result – valuations have shot up.

The parallels of a current tech bubble with that of the 1990s are one too many. Internet stocks are the big craze. Investments are paving way for speculation as Wall Street dishes out IPOS for dot-com stocks that promise earnings or a transformative information economy.

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MedTech

Smart Homes: Tech making our indoor time friendlier

Mounir Jamil

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As people around the world have been locked away behind the walls of their homes, an enhanced focus has been placed to perfecting everything on the inside to maximize levels of comfort and productivity needed on a daily basis.

The pandemic has forced us into a new reality where we look toward at new avenues to increase our time at home – fueled by fierce technology, the smart home trend has witnessed an increase in popularity.

While smart homes have been around a bit before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, we can defiantly see a surge in their consumption now and an increased demand for them as a study from Statista reveals that the global smart home market revenue was forecast to reach a value of more than $141 billion by 2023.

The term “smart home” can be a bit alluring, as it more precisely refers to a practical and convenient setup of applications and devices that can be automatically controlled remotely anywhere via an Internet connection.

In a nutshell, a smart home functions by having several devices that are connected to each other, which can be accessed through one central point, typically being a tablet, smartphone, or laptop.

These devices range from key home appliances such as lights, switches, water temperature, security system, air conditioning and etc. Other nifty gadgets allow homeowners to control Smart TVs and speakers, letting them set the right mood for a perfect stay indoors.

All these gadgets and devices in a smart home are interconnected through the Internet and give the user several options such as controlling home functions like lighting, temperature, security, and of course their home theater remotely.

The neat part about smart home appliances is that they come equipped with self-learning skills that allow them to quickly pick up in homeowner’s schedules, preferences, and routines to make the needed adjustments when necessary.

We can notice a direct increase in usage brought forward by the pandemic, as a study finds that one-third of smart home device owners report an increased usage during the pandemic.

Another interesting point to draw is that the two top used devices in a connected home are the smart door lock and camera-based security devices reflecting the needs of accessibility and security.

While the market holds a promising future for potential investors, they should be warned that it does come with a competitive and vibrant landscape coupled with a suite of companies creating customized offerings for their buyers.

On a brighter note, the barriers for entry into the smart home market are projected to decrease with the additional demand of digital security, entertainment systems, and lighting solutions going up.

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