Is freedom from pain a good thing? – Edition 30

DIGITAL PHENOTYPING – TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN

A survey and report by NHS Digital shows that one in eight (12%) of children and young people aged between five and 19 had a mental disorder in 2017. Statistics from the Mental Health Foundation say that 70% of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age.

A growing body of interdisciplinary research is demonstrating that using sensor and interaction data from student’s smart phones can give insight into stress, depression, mood, suicide risk and more. The approach, termed Digital Phenotyping, has the potential to transform how mental health and wellbeing can be monitored and understood. It also creates greater opportunity for earlier intervention. That’s the up side.

“Digital Phenotyping, has the potential to transform how mental health and wellbeing can be monitored and understood”

Irrespective of the possible medical merits of such a move on mental health, phenotyping raises profound moral, ethical and legal issues for which nobody has a response yet. Could it increase user distress? Once a user is characterized as suicidal, will it be a label they must live with forever? What happens if a hacker gets possession of the information for corrupt purposes? The research is at such an early stage that it is impossible to tell whether phenotyping will mitigate or exacerbate stress. Industries will need to adjust by de-sensitising and potentially anonymising data which is now possible via cryptographic protocols also called zero knowledge proofs.

The compounding of issues such as these and many others, continues to drive an increasingly strong case to prioritise wellbeing at the heart of society and business culture.

Anni Hood, Chief Executive, Well Intelligence

A VEGAN RUSH FOR THE EXIT?

A few significant YouTube and Instagram influencers, Yovana Mendoza and Bonny Rebecca amongst them are ‘giving in’ on their purist vegan lifestyle with largely health related claims that they needed to include animal protein in their diets.

The main lesson from this rush for the exit is not that a vegan diet is impossible, but that when it’s adopted in an extreme or faddish way it is, at best, difficult to sustain.

And there is growing research that points to mixed diet being better than plant based diets. That it is confusing is no doubt, but it does appear that there is a winner is this mine-field sector and that is the food retail industry. The virtue signaling of all things vegan has a growing status appeal in a class of its own that has little to do with health or the environment.

“Will the rise in vegetarianism and veganism reduce or stagnate? Neither looks likely anytime soon and in the meantime, industry will service demand very profitably.”

A comparison recently shared in an FT article looked at Finest British beef steak burgers costing £6.61 per kg compared to a ‘fake’ vegan burger (made mostly of pea protein) at £21.81 per kg. More generally, the price premium is around 50 per cent but whatever way one regards it, the pursuit of plant based lifestyle is a food retail winner!

Will the rise in vegetarianism and veganism reduce or stagnate? Neither looks likely anytime soon and in the meantime, industry will service demand very profitably!

Steve Dunne, Chairman, Well Intelligence

IS FREEDOM FROM PAIN A GOOD THING?

How many people would opt for being pain free if they were given the choice?
A woman in Scotland is one of only two people in the world found by scientists not to feel any pain because of a gene mutation. As well as the lack of physical pain felt, she is equally pain free from an emotional perspective, rarely feeling stress or panic. The opportunity is whether this state can be harnessed in the pursuit of increased wellbeing.

Scientists have published their research in the British Journal of Anaesthesia, saying they hoped to use what they had learned to “significantly improve” people’s post-operative pain treatment, as well as treatment for chronic pain and anxiety disorders.

Whilst being pain free may sound idyllic to some, it also removes the valuable psychological and physical defense mechanisms we have that direct our response and keep us safe from physical dangers such as burns or knocks.

“It raises the deeper philosophical question whether we need to feel pain, and stress, in order to understand and experience true happiness and wellbeing.”

But it also raises the deeper philosophical question whether we need to feel pain, and stress, in order to understand and experience true happiness and wellbeing.

We know that undertaking hard physical exercise like running a marathon or mastering challenging situations can make you feel good. Anyone seeking to design and offer wellbeing experiences might ponder: is a certain amount of pain, albeit harmless pain, essential in order to gain the true benefit?

Anni Hood, Chief Executive, Well Intelligence

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