Mental health risks increased by internet addiction, study finds

September 21, 2016

Young  people who spend an inordinate amount of time on the internet increase their risks of suffering from mental health problems such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, executive functioning issues, impulsiveness and inattention.

A recent study by researchers at McMaster University in Canada looked at the effects of internet and social media use in 254 university-age individuals. The investigators used the Internet Addiction Test (IAT) developed and used since 1998 as well as a new testing scale they designed on their own.

According to Chief Researcher Michael Van Ameringen, a professor at McMaster University, the results of the study showed that those who screened positive on the IAT and their own scale “had significantly more trouble dealing with their day to day activities, including life at home, at work, school and in social settings”.

According to the criteria set by the IAT, 33 out of 254 students were found to be suffering from internet addiction. About 55.8% of students found it difficult to control their practice of video streaming, 47.9% couldn’t stay away from using social media, and 28.5% were obsessed with instant messaging tools.

On the other hand, the new screening tool developed by the researchers showed that three times as many youngsters met the criteria for internet addiction.The researcher noted that the IAT, which was created before smartphone use became widespread, may not be reliable in the present scenario since it may produce false positive results in differentiating people simply using the internet from those addicted to it.

With the dawn of social media, video streaming, online jobs, instant messaging and other similar things over the last 18 years, internet use has been different, Van Ameringen said.

On the other hand, the new tool is designed to screen current internet use. With it, the researchers found that 42.1% of the surveyed students had mental health issues due to excessive reliance on the internet.

Van Ameringen said this leads to questions on whether the rising occurrence of internet addiction has been extremely underestimated, and whether dependence on technology may either cause or result in other mental health issues.

With these concerns in mind, Van Ameringen noted how the study may have practical implications for how mental health care providers address problematic internet use.

“If you are trying to treat someone for an addiction when in fact they are anxious or depressed, then you may be going down the wrong route,” he cautioned. Van Ameringen added that to achieve a better understanding of the problem and come up with a solution, large-scale studies should be conducted among a bigger and more diverse group of people.

Their study is set to be presented at the 29th annual European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Congress in Vienna, Austria.

According to the Illinois Institute of Addiction Recovery, the warning signs of internet addiction include preoccupation with and prolonged use of the internet, unsuccessful attempts to cut down internet use and using the technology to escape real-life problems and feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, depression and guilt.


Category: Education, Features

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