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Thursday, 04 February 2010 02:38

UK shrinks say Internet addicts are more depressed

Psychologists in the United Kingdom have found that people addicted to the Internet are five times more likely to be depressed than non-addicted people.

The research performed by the UK researchers concerning Internet Addiction and Depression is published in the journal Psychopathology.

The journal article is entitled 'The Relationship between Excessive Internet Use and Depression: A Questionnaire-Based Study of 1,319 Young People and Adults' [Psychopathology 2010;43:121-126 (DOI: 10.1159/000277001)]

Its authors are Catriona M. Morrison and Helen Gore, both from the Institute of Psychological Sciences at University of Leeds (Leeds, United Kingdom).

Internet addiction (IA) is an increasing problem in today's society dominated by the use of the Internet, computers, and other such high-tech communications devices.

In fact, the authors state in the abstract to their paper that 'Recently there has been much public concern over the relationship between Internet use and negative affect.'

Consequently, psychological researchers Morrison and Gore studied the relationship between Internet Addiction (IA) and addictive symptoms and depression.

Page two describes the study in more detail. What they found may not surprise you but it may make you more concerned than you were before.

The two Leeds University researchers studied 1,319 people, from 16 to 51 years of age (with an average age of 21 years).

The participants were given three test: the IA Test, the Internet Function Questionnaire, and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI).

After completing the tests, 1.2% of the people (eighteen people) were found to be classified as addicted to the Internet (IA).

These 18 IA people were then compared to a similarly matched group of non-addicted (NA) people, with respect to two of the three previously used psychological tests (the Internet Function Questionnaire and the Beck Depression Inventory).

The UK psychologists found that if a person was addicted to the Internet then they are also more likely to be depressed.

In fact, the "... Internet addicts were significantly more depressed than the non-addicted group, with a depression score five times higher." [BBC News: 'Internet use linked to depression']

Page three adds more results, comparing men and women, and younger and older people.

In addition, the results showed that (1) men showed more addiction to the Internet than women and (2) younger people showed more addiction to the Internet than older people.

The level of depression was also studied. The researchers found ''¦ the NA group firmly in the non-depressed range, and the IA group in the moderately-to-severely depressed range'¦.' [Abstract]

And, according to their abstract, 'In terms of the function for which they used the Internet, the IA group engaged significantly more than the NA group in sexually gratifying websites, gaming websites and online community/chat websites.'

The BBC article stated, 'The Leeds University team stressed they could not say one necessarily caused the other, and that most internet users did not suffer mental health problems.'

In addition, Dr. Morrison, one of the two authors, stated, "The internet now plays a huge part in modern life, but its benefits are accompanied by a darker side.' {BBC News}

She adds, "While many of us use the internet to pay bills, shop and send e-mails, there is a small subset of the population who find it hard to control how much time they spend online, to the point where it interferes with their daily activities." [BBC News}

Page four concludes, with conclusions from the study's abstract.

Dr. Morrison continues her comments with, "Our research indicates that excessive internet use is associated with depression, but what we don't know is which comes first - are depressed people drawn to the internet or does the internet cause depression?" [BBC News]

"Now we need to investigate the nature of that relationship and consider the issue of causation." [BBC News]

The Leeds University study concluded, 'The concept of IA is emerging as a construct that must be taken seriously. Moreover, it is linked to depression, such that those who regard themselves as dependent on the Internet report high levels of depressive symptoms. Those who show symptoms of IA are likely to engage proportionately more than the normal population in sites that serve as a replacement for real-life socialising.'

And, 'Further work needs to be done on validating this relationship. Future research is needed to corroborate the existing evidence and address the nature of the relationship between IA and depression: there is comorbidity between these conditions that needs greater investigation.'


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