Teen Internet Addicts May Be At Higher Risk for Depression

Posted on August 2nd, 2010
Posted in Teens

Previous research has suggested that adolescents with depression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are at a higher risk of developing an addiction to the Internet, and a new study from China adds to this growing body of evidence, saying that teens who exhibit signs of Internet addiction are twice as likely to develop depression as those who aren’t addicted to the web.

Lawrence Lam, PhD, of the University of Notre Dame in Fremantle, Australia, and Zi-Wen Pang, MSc, of Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China, surveyed 1, 618 high school students in Guangzhou, a large city in southeastern China, and found that teens who compulsively used the Internet were 2.5 times more likely to become depressed. The researchers noted, however, that Internet addiction could be an early symptom of depression.

Internet addiction has also been association with aggressive behavior, social problems, and health problems such as lack of sleep and malnutrition. To examine a possible link between Internet addiction and depression/anxiety, Lam and Pang gave questionnaires to students that included the Zung self-rating scales for anxiety and depression and Young’s Internet Addiction Scale, as well as questions about whether students felt depressed, moody, or nervous when away from the computer. The questionnaire was repeated nine months later for those who completed the baseline survey.

They found that 6.2% of the students were moderately addicted to the Internet and 0.2% were severely addicted. Most students said they used the Internet for entertainment purposes. Nine months later, 0.2% had symptoms of anxiety and 8.4% had symptoms of depression.

The researchers said that their study suggest that compulsive Internet use may lead to depression or worsen it, demonstrating a causal relationship between Internet addiction and depression in adolescents. They concluded that adolescents who compulsively use the Internet are at a higher risk for mental health problems and could develop depression if they continue using the Internet in unhealthy ways.

Lam and Pang noted that the limitations of their study include self-reporting of behaviors and symptoms, lack of information of family history of depression, and the fact that the participants were Chinese youth. 

The researchers suggested that a screening for Internet addiction in high schools could be helpful for identifying at-risk adolescents and providing early intervention and treatment.

Source: MedPage Today, John Geever, Depression Risk Upped for Teen Internet Addicts, August 2, 2010

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