Will smart watches cause health paranoia?

A new study found that smart watches can detect viral infections before any symptom is shown. Will these devices become the future of healthcare or will they create health paranoia?

Cc Lee
7th December 2021
A recent study has found that smart watches could help detect and prevent viral diseases, such as rhinovirus. Wearable devices can distinguish between infection and non infection diseases with more than 85% accuracy. But what does this mean for the wider population? And could this negatively impact on people’s mental health?

In the study, thirty one participants were inoculated with H1N1 and eighteen were inoculated with rhinovirus. Whilst using wearable devices, the equipment was able to distinguish between infection and non-infection. The devices for H1N1 participant’s results were 92% accurate and 88% accurate for those who were inoculated with rhinovirus. As the infections were detected before showing symptoms, this could be helpful in the long run to stop the diseases from spreading.

Consequently, this outlines that it is probable to use technologies to prevent the spread of diseases and limit the impact of these diseases in hospital. Thus giving priority to other patients i.e., cancer patients. Whilst this could prevent the spread, it could also perhaps eradicate the viral diseases in the long run. Obviously reducing the death rates of these diseases and causing a lower impact on vulnerable groups who are affected each year.

Smart watch - Credits: @fancycrave1 via Pixabay

Whilst this seems promising -that technology has advanced so much that a non-invasive device can detect such diseases - as the study was only conducted on a small amount of people it’s hard to predict the effects on the entire population. In accordance, they should have perhaps measured mental health in relation to an increased track in their health. Most of the time people who constantly track calorie intake, lead to damaging their health rather than helping it. What makes a smart watch that detects diseases any different? Moreover, a constant tracker that can detect disease before people show symptoms could lead to mass populations growing paranoid. Essentially, increasing the damage on people’s mental health.

Not only could this heighten paranoia but this new device could marginalise those who can’t afford it. For the UK, the smart watches can be available for free. Although, they may only be free for certain age groups – who are more prone to dying from such diseases. This then means that potentially life saving healthcare could be shielded from poorer communities, setting a monetary gap between who gets to live and who can’t. How then would the government decide to administer the new technologies? Would everyone get it, for the sake of fairness, or would the cost be too great that only the rich could access this type of health care?

It seems obvious that such devices could cause more harm than without

In conclusion then, whilst this seems like a promising result from the study, the results may differ when tested on a bigger group of people. It could also provoke fear around health and potentially become privatised healthcare. With all this in mind, it seems obvious that such devices could cause more harm than without.

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