Internet addiction could lead to depression, and men are more vulnerable, says a British study. Also the addictive symptoms were more traceable in the younger lot. Significantly the depressed group seemed to frequent pornographic websites more.
Researchers from the University of Leeds said in their findings published in the Journal of Psychopathology, "There is a growing awareness of a psychiatric construct that needs to be better defined and understood: Internet addiction (IA). Recently there has been much public concern over the relationship between Internet use and negative affect. This study explored the concept of IA and examined the relationship between addictive symptoms and depression."
An online questionnaire was used to measure participants' Internet use, the functions for which they used the Internet, and their depressive tendencies. 1,319 respondents completed the questionnaires, 18 (1.2%) identified as IAs.
Across the whole data sample, there was a close relationship between IA tendencies and depression, such that IA respondents were more depressed; there were also significant differences between the sexes, with men showing more addictive tendencies than women. In addition, young people were significantly more likely to show addictive symptoms than were older people.
In terms of the function for which they used the Internet, the IA group engaged significantly more than the NA group in sexually gratifying websites, gaming websites and online community/chat websites.
So, the researchers concluded, "The concept of IA is emerging as a construct that must be taken seriously. Moreover, it is linked to depression, such that those who regard themselves as dependent on the Internet report high levels of depressive symptoms. Those who show symptoms of IA are likely to engage proportionately more than the normal population in sites that serve as a replacement for real-life socialising. Further work needs to be done on validating this relationship. Future research is needed to corroborate the existing evidence and address the nature of the relationship between IA and depression: there is co-morbidity between these conditions that needs greater investigation."
Research leader Dr Catriona Morrison said: 'The internet plays a huge part in modern life, but its benefits are accompanied by a darker side.'
She also wondered, '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?'