Skip main navigation

£199.99 £139.99 for one year of Unlimited learning. Offer ends on 28 February 2023 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply

Find out more

Smartphones, ageing and health

In this video, we discuss how smartphones impact the process of ageing and how they are used for health purposes.
A question you might have asked at the start of this course is, why should the focus be three very different components– smartphones, ageing, and health? It’s important to remember that health goes beyond the biomedical and we should consider having a broader notion of health as well-being. In Ireland, we found as many people employed an alternative health like yoga as in biomedical health, and this is often organised through smartphones. In Yaoundé, common alternative health care ranged from traditional Chinese medicine to traditional herbal cures, which have a strong [INAUDIBLE] and cultural resonance that remains important to people. I’ve found that people made little use of specialist help apps on their smartphones, but apps such as WhatsApp are really important for health.
So I became involved in a project that allowed nutritionists to use WhatsApp to help people improve their diet. In Shanghai, looking medical appointments through smartphone apps has become a regular practise. In care homes, the smartphone has also become a primary way for care workers to record and report their work. A major component of health is social connection and showing care. In Japan this can manifest in highly visual messaging, using emoji, stickers, and photos. I worked with doctors to set up messaging groups among elderly people in rural [? Kochi ?] to facilitate social experiences of food in a context where they may often be eating alone.
Each team member is now attempting to employ their research in practical ways that help people directly. In my case, along with Ugandan doctors, I examine perceptions and experiences of mental health problems. We’re using this research to seek funding to set up a phone line for mental health inquiries.

This short film presents a summary of our experience in considering mHealth and of developing our own interventions based on our studies.

Several of these cases will be discussed in more detail in later steps during this week. As you can see, one important factor was that we were working in regions that had very different levels of income and health facilities.

We also found that the people we worked with considered different things as falling under the ‘health’ umbrella, including traditional and complementary treatments as well as bio-medical perspectives.

This article is from the free online

An Anthropology of Smartphones: Communication, Ageing and Health

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education