Young people

Teenage internet addicts more likely to self-harm

Twice as likely, study finds

Teenagers who are addicted to using the internet are twice as likely to harm themselves, new research has found.

The results come from a study of 1,618 Chinese schoolchildren between the ages of 13 and 18. All of the teenagers were assessed for internet addiction using a standard method, and filled in questionnaires designed to reveal whether they were harming themselves.

Self harm included hair pulling, hitting themselves and burning and pinching their skin.

Around one in 10 of the teenagers questioned were found to be moderately addicted to using the internet, with 0.6% severely addicted.

And just over 16% of internet users said they had self harmed in the previous six months, with 4.5% saying they had harmed themselves on at least half a dozen occasions.

After adjusting for factors which could influence the results such as underlying health problems, lack of sleep and stress, the researchers discovered that teenagers who were moderately or severely addicted to internet use were twice as likely to harm themselves compared to those without an addiction.

The teenagers were also more likely to harm themselves more seriously than their peers who were not addicted.

Past research suggests that people with addictive personalities are more at risk of self harm, including suicidal behaviour. For example, it is thought that between one in four and half of those with eating disorders self harm, say the authors.

The researchers, based at the University of Notre Dame in New South Wales, said past research has indicated that people with addictive personalities are at a greater risk of self harm. It appears that this may also apply to internet addiction.

Internet addiction has been classed as a mental health problem with symptoms similar to other addictions since the mid 1990s.

Addiction to the internet is defined as feelings of depression and nervousness/moodiness when offline, which only goes away with using the internet again, or fantasising or being preoccupied about being online.

The study is published in the journal Injury Prevention.

This article was published on Thu 3 December 2009

Image © © Andrew Buckin -

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