Study links excessive Internet use to depression

LONDON Wed Feb 3, 2010 2:01am EST

People use computers at an internet cafe in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, November 13, 2009. REUSTERS/Stringer

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LONDON (Reuters) - People who spend a lot of time surfing the internet are more likely to show signs of depression, British scientists said on Wednesday.

But it is not clear whether the internet causes depression or whether depressed people are drawn to it.

Psychologists from Leeds University found what they said was "striking" evidence that some avid net users develop compulsive internet habits in which they replace real-life social interaction with online chat rooms and social networking sites.

"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," the study's lead author, Catriona Morrison, wrote in the journal Psychopathology.

"This type of addictive surfing can have a serious impact on mental health."

In the first large-scale study of Western young people to look at this issue, the researchers analyzed internet use and depression levels of 1,319 Britons aged between 16 and 51.

Of these, 1.2 percent were "internet addicted", they concluded.

These "internet addicts" spent proportionately more time browsing sexually gratifying websites, online gaming sites and online communities, Morrison said. They also had a higher incidence of moderate to severe depression than normal users.

"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?," Morrison said.

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

Morrison noted that while the 1.2 percent figure for those classed as "addicts" was small, it was larger than the incidence of gambling in Britain, which is around 0.6 percent. (Reporting by Kate Kelland. Editing by Paul Casciato)

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Comments (3)
kmreview wrote:
If they do find out that the Internet causes depression, scientists should take a hard look at cyber-bullying. I have seen some of the rudest comments on the Internet. People go out of their way to insult others with words they’d never use in person.

Feb 03, 2010 5:42pm EST  --  Report as abuse
CalgarySandy wrote:
Does the writer of this piece not have an Editor? In one sentence the author points out that there is no knowledge as to whether the depression leads one to the Internet or the Internet leads one to depression. The next sentence goes back to warnings about the Internet. “Study links Excessive Internet Use to Depression.” No, it doesn’t. All it does is indicate a relationship but not the direction of it.
It does not matter if it causes Depression anyway. We do not provide help for most Depressed people so it is moot. The Internet does provide a place for the Depressed to talk to others, find information, and even make friends.

Cyber Bullying is rampant and obnoxious. We encourage it with our laughter at those who are different on TV and movies. Our children see us laugh at the pain of others and copy those actions. Mobbing or Bullying in the work place is also out of control. This causes a lot of Depression too.
Cyber bullying is a major problem but no one is truly addressing it.

Feb 03, 2010 10:46pm EST  --  Report as abuse
mdspatsy wrote:
These psychological findings are somewhat interesting and i noted the contents.
Whether these psychologists gave any solutions for net addicts and net addicts have related future depression stages.
For lonely persons with more knowledge,this net surfing for more hours will give some companionship towards chatting with semi-known friends,watching good music videos,enlarging friendship,sharing of their tastes and preferences with their social websites friends.
Of course, more hours with networks may hamper progress to students,high sensitive persons and it may create more anxiety to sensational persons.
From latest science and technology,there will be plus and minus points from time to time.
For balanced vision oriented persons, more hours with networks will not create much troubles,psycho related problems in later months/years.
This article gives some sorts of warning to net addicts.

Feb 04, 2010 6:09am EST  --  Report as abuse
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