Excessive Internet use is linked to depression

Feb 03, 2010

People who spend a lot of time browsing the net are more likely to show depressive symptoms, according to the first large-scale study of its kind in the West by University of Leeds psychologists.

Researchers found striking evidence that some users have developed a compulsive internet habit, whereby they replace real-life with online chat rooms and . The results suggest that this type of addictive surfing can have a serious impact on mental health.

Lead author Dr Catriona Morrison, from the University of Leeds, said: "The internet now plays a huge part in modern life, but its benefits are accompanied by a darker side.

"While many of us use the internet to pay bills, shop and send emails, 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."

These 'internet addicts' spent proportionately more time browsing sexually gratifying websites, online gaming sites and online communities. They also had a higher incidence of moderate to than non-addicted users.

"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?

"What is clear, is that for a small subset of people, excessive use of the internet could be a warning signal for depressive tendencies."

Incidents such as the spate of suicides among teenagers in the Welsh town of Bridgend in 2008 led many to question the extent to which social networking sites can contribute to depressive thoughts in vulnerable teenagers. In the Leeds study, young people were more likely to be internet addicted than middle-aged users, with the average age of the addicted group standing at 21 years.

"This study reinforces the public speculation that over-engaging in websites that serve to replace normal social function might be linked to psychological disorders like depression and addiction," added Dr Morrison. "We now need to consider the wider societal implications of this relationship and establish clearly the effects of excessive internet use on mental health."

This was the first large-scale study of Western young people to consider the relationship between internet addiction and depression. The internet use and levels of 1,319 people aged 16-51 were evaluated for the study, and of these, 1.2% were classed as being internet addicted. While small, this figure is larger than the incidence of gambling in the UK, which stands at 0.6%. The research will be published in the journal Psychopathology on 10th February.

Explore further: OCD patients' brains light up to reveal how compulsive habits develop

More information: 'The relationship between excessive internet use and depression: a questionnaire-based study of 1,319 young people and adults,' Psychopathology.

Related Stories

Internet addiction more serious than OCD

Aug 20, 2007

Internet addiction should be grouped with extreme addictive disorders such as gambling, sex addiction and kleptomania, an Israeli psychiatrist said.

Study Links Internet Addiction to Aggression in Teens

Feb 23, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Armed with the findings of a new study, Taiwanese researchers suggest parents and educators pay more attention to children’s online habits because Internet-addicted teens seem more prone to aggression. ...

Experts debate Internet addiction

Nov 14, 2006

Experts have questioned whether Internet addiction constitutes a psychological disorder and an Arlington, Va., group may add it to its diagnostic manual.

Internet of long-term benefit for depression: Study

Oct 10, 2006

Mental health researchers at The Australian National University have found that brief Internet-based interventions for depression are not only immediately effective, but have a significant positive long-term benefit that ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 11

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

LordOfRuin
4.8 / 5 (5) Feb 03, 2010
Or perhaps, being on the internet, users get a wider world view, and are depressed by it. Ignorance is bliss they say. If you don't realise that your country has implimented an improper solution to a problem, then you won't be angry about it. If you don't see what others are enjoying, then you won't be unhappy at not being able to enjoy the same.

I'm not surprised at the results, but feel that it's a little unfair to blame the internet browsing for being the cause.
TheBigYin
5 / 5 (6) Feb 03, 2010
To give the article its due, it doesn't claim that they yet know if the depression is a cause of the excessive internet use or the other way around.

My suspicion is that already depressed people with low self-esteem or social problems find it easier to get a sort of social interaction from online life, and so become addicted to it as their only outlet for these feelings.

But maybe they can prove that it's the other way around, which would be a remarkable and far-reaching finding, if proven.
nuge
Feb 03, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
JohnRichard
5 / 5 (2) Feb 03, 2010
I have to agree with TheBigYin, I think depressed people seek refuge in the dark corners of the internet. A study was done that said people who have any type of Avatar or Character, in any type of settings (like an online game) tend to talk about that character with the same parts of the brain they use to talk about themselves.

Notice I said tends too; that doesn't go for everyone. However, I can believe that people in internet forum games or social online communities believe they are completely different there, than in "RL" as they say.
fourthrocker
5 / 5 (3) Feb 03, 2010
They would certainly get depressed reading replies to their posts on many forums. Worse if they are intelligent, the people who post on most forums (not this one of course) don't seem to be smart enough to breathe on their own yet they always have an opinion like they were informed, experienced or educated.
Dinulka
1 / 5 (2) Feb 03, 2010
In my opinion it is wrong to say that internet can make someone addicted..depressed as well. It is all depends on person.
TheBigYin
5 / 5 (1) Feb 04, 2010
Dinulka, again the article does NOT claim this. Can people read any more? To quote the article (as opposed to disagreeing with what you THINK it's saying):

"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?"

jonnyboy
1 / 5 (1) Feb 04, 2010
In my opinion it is wrong to say that internet can make someone addicted..depressed as well. It is all depends on person.


They would certainly get depressed reading replies to their posts on many forums. Worse if they are intelligent, the people who post on most forums (not this one of course) don't seem to be smart enough to breathe on their own yet they always have an opinion like they were informed, experienced or educated.


I just love it when someone answers "before the fact".

KB6
5 / 5 (1) Feb 06, 2010
If you want to be depressed, go to Youtube. It doesn't matter which video; any will do. Scroll down to the comments and start reading. Generally, depression will hit within 60 seconds.
droom
not rated yet Feb 07, 2010
The internet is one of the modern day crutches. Depressed people tend to use any crutch that makes them feel better, nothing, or at least distracted. To me this is no better than saying drugs correlate with depression.

Though I like LordofRuin's point. I can say its affected me personally. Though its made me apathetic more so than depressed. As being the first generation to really grow up in the internet age(Im 24), Im really interested to see the long term psychological effect on society as a whole. Will(or rather when will) it cause some sort of mental evolution? Same with social networking, being able to connect so easily, with so many people, wherever you or they are, will surely cause some sort of longterm mental adaptation.
Quantum_Conundrum
not rated yet Feb 07, 2010
The internet is often depressing due to the utter hatred, disregard, and detachment from "real" relationships that it brings. People insult one another and talk garbage about them in ways that they would never do in person, and if this crap is what someone is reading all the time, then they are more likely to have negative feelings, thus further increasing the negativity of the internet itself....breeding a civilization of detached hate-mongers and porn addicts...
droom
not rated yet Feb 07, 2010
....breeding a civilization of detached hate-mongers and porn addicts...


Sadly, it seems like civilization has been like that since day 1. Although porn is relatively new in the scope of history, the urge that it satisfies is has always been there.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.