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The Internet/Depression Connection

By HERWriter
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Depression related image Photo: Getty Images

Two recent studies have people questioning and evaluating their Internet usage and how it affects their mental health. Neither study used controlled subject groups and scientific instruments. Instead, results and conclusions were based on interviews with subjects. The article published in the journal of Psychopathology in February evaluated 1,319 people between the ages of 16 and 51 in Leeds, England, while the second study released in August interviewed 1,041 high school students in China between ages 13 and 18.

Nevertheless, the conclusions are interesting and worth noting.

Internet Depression Study Specifics

The Leeds study, conducted by Dr. Catriona Morrison of the University of Leeds, set out to evaluate the impact of increased use of the Internet on a certain segment of the population. As mentioned, 1,319 people between the ages of 16 and 51 were evaluated. The study was initiated in the aftermath of a string of suicides by teenagers in the Welsh town of Bridgend in 2008, among others. Since this age group tended to spend the most time of any other group on the Internet, questions were raised about whether or not there was a connection.

In the study of Chinese students, the purpose was to determine how many teenagers displayed a “pathological addiction” to the Internet and how that use related to their mental state. The questions asked of subjects in this study were the same as used to diagnose pathological gamblers. The students were questioned nine months after the initial survey to track their mental health.

The Results of the Studies

In the University of Leeds study, researchers discovered that 1.2 percent of those analyzed were “internet addicted”, in that they “spent proportionately more time browsing sexually gratifying websites, online gaming sites and online communities…They also had a higher incidence of moderate to severe depression than normal users” (www.canada.com). By comparison, this percentage of Internet addicts was larger than that concluded for gambling, which was around .6 percent.

In the Chinese student study, about 6 percent of students reported moderately pathological Internet use, and .2 percent, severely pathological use. When the same group of students was evaluated nine months later, researchers found an “association between pathological Internet use in the first survey and depression in the second survey even after researchers took into account other factors that might influence the link, including age, gender, physical activity and dissatisfaction with their family life” (www.livescience.com). The 6 percent of participants who were identified as being Internet addicts were two-and-a-half times as likely to be suffering from depression at the nine-month follow-up evaluation as those who used the Internet more moderately.

The Internet/Depression Link

While these studies are not scientific, their conclusions are helpful. It remains to be determined, however, which comes first, the depression that leads people to use the Internet more, or the overuse of Internet which leads to the depression.

Internet use, as in everything else, must be taken in moderation, and it is up to family members and friends to notice when Internet usage is becoming a problem. A person is considered “pathologically addicted” to the Internet when they:

- exhibit an inability to control the use of the Internet; they don’t know when to turn it off or have difficulty turning it off
- start neglecting friends, family and other responsibilities and start spending that time online
- display depressive symptoms, anxiety, or irritability when they’re offline.

“Pathological use refers to unreasonable or uncontrolled use that shows signs of addictive behavior.” (www.insidermedicine.com).

“Today’s research suggests that use of the Internet among adolescents should be monitored and controlled, as unhealthy use may make them vulnerable to mental health problems.” (www.insidermedicine.com).

Sources: www.canada.com; www.livescience.com; www.health.am; http://psychcentral.com; www.insidermedicine.com

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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