Young people * Mental wellbeing

Depressed? Then stop reading this

does the internet make you depressed Internet use linked to depression

People who spend excessive amounts of time "surfing the web" are more likely to exhibit the symptoms of depression.

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

But it is not clear if people who are feeling depressed are more likely to spend time online, or if too much Internet usage causes symptoms of depression.

These findings come from a large scale study Western young people to consider the relationship between internet addiction and depression. Over 1,300 people aged between 16 and 51 were evaluated for the study, and of these 1.2% were classed as being internet addicted.

Internet addicts spend a proportionally longer time looking at sexual material, online gaming and social networking sites. They also had a higher incidence of moderate to severe depression than non-addicted users.

Leader of the study 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."

She concluded: "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. We now need to consider the wider societal implications of this relationship and establish clearly the effects of excessive internet use on mental health."

The study was published in the journal Psychopathology.

This article was published on Wed 3 February 2010



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