There is a strong link between heavy internet use and depression, UK psychologists have said.
The study, reported in the journal Psychopathology, found 1.2% of people surveyed were “internet addicts”, and many of these were depressed.
The authors found that a small number of users had developed a compulsive internet habit, replacing real life social interaction with online chat rooms and social networking sites.
They classed 18 respondents – 1.2% of the total – as “internet addicts”. This group spent proportionately more time on sex, gambling and online community websites.
The internet addicts were significantly more depressed than the non-addicted group, with a depression score five times higher.
Lead author Dr Catriona Morrison 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 e-mails, 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.”
Sophie Corlett, of the mental health charity Mind, said: “Evidence suggests that active pursuits such as exercise and socialising with people face-to-face are among the factors that help us stay in good mental health. Although excessive internet use can’t be said to cause mental health problems, if a web addict is substituting meaningful friendships and socialising with virtual contact on the internet, this might have an adverse affect on their mental wellbeing.”
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