Possible Link Between Excessive Internet Use and Depression Found

A recent study showed that people who spend more time on the Internet are also more likely to show signs of depression. Psychologists from Leeds University found some striking evidence people who develop a compulsive Internet habit can have a serious impact on mental health.

In what is known as the first large-scale study in the West that looked into Internet use and depression, researchers analyzed 1,319 British participants with ages between 16 and 51. The participants were also evaluated according to their level on Internet use, with about 1.2 percent considered as "Internet addicts". The study showed that those who were considered as Internet addicts were also showing a higher incidence of moderate to severe depression as compared to normal users.

According to Dr. Catriona Morrison, lead author of the study from the University of Leeds, "Our research indicates that 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?"

"What is clear is that, for a small subset of people, excessive use of the internet could be a warning signal for depressive tendencies," Dr. Morrison added. In those who find it difficult to avoid excessive Internet use, real-life social interaction is gradually replaced by online interaction through social networking sites and online chat rooms.

"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," further adds Dr Morrison. "We now need to consider the wider societal implications of this relationship and establish clearly the effects of excessive internet use on mental health."

Source: University of Leeds. "Excessive Internet Use Is Linked to Depression." ScienceDaily 2 February 2010. 3 February 2010