Excessive Internet Use Linked to Depression
People who spend a lot of time surfing the Internet are more likely to suffer depressive symptoms, according to a British study. These users report more symptoms on the Beck depression inventory, a questionnaire that gauges emotional and physical aspects, such as hopelessness, irritability, feelings of guilt, fatigue and weight loss.
In addition, a small subset of people who surf the Internet compulsively report high levels of depressive symptoms. These users spend more time browsing sexually-gratifying websites, gaming sites and online communities; the Internet appears to replace real-life social interaction.
“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?,” points out lead author Catriona Morrison of the University of Leeds in the UK. “What is clear, is that for a small subset of people, excessive use of the internet could be a warning signal for depressive tendencies.”
According to the Center for Internet Addiction, answering “yes” to any five of the following questions qualifies as an Internet addiction diagnosis:
1.Do you feel preoccupied with the Internet (think about previous online activity or anticipate next online session)?
2.Do you feel the need to use the Internet with increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction?
3.Have you repeatedly made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop Internet use?
4.Do you feel restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop Internet use?
5.Do you stay online longer than originally intended?
6.Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of the Internet?
7.Have you lied to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with the Internet?
8.Do you use the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)?
The study published in the journal Psychopathology involved 1,319 Internet users ages 16 to 51. Eighteen participants—or roughly 1%—displayed behaviors consistent with Internet addiction. The differences in depressive symptoms were significant: The non-addicted group scored firmly in the non-depressed range, and the Internet-addicted group in the moderately-to-severely depressed range. With larger studies, the researchers hope to clarify the relationship between Internet use and depression.