Study Links Internet Addiction and Mental Health Issues in College Students

The study found a correlation between excessive internet use and depression, anxiety and impulsiveness, among other things.

Researchers found a correlation between internet addiction and rates of certain mental health disorders in a recent study of college students.

Of the 254 students evaluated in the study, the people who had trouble controlling their internet use had higher rates of depression, anxiety, impulsiveness and inattention.

“Excessive use of the internet is an understudied phenomenon that may disguise mild or severe psychopathology,” Dr. Jan Buitelaar of the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center in the Netherlands says. “Excessive use of the internet may be strongly linked to compulsive behavior and addiction.”

For the study, researchers evaluated a small pool of freshman at McMaster University in Ontario using a tool measuring the frequency of their internet use. Researchers also assessed the students’ mental health status.

In addition to the disorders mentioned above, the 140 students in the study who qualified for internet addiction or problematic internet use had more trouble handling their daily routines, planning and time management.

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The authors of the study say more research is needed to determine if mental health issues are a cause of excessive internet use, but say the study’s results may influence medical professionals’ treatment plans once it has been verified.

“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,” chief researcher Dr. Michael Van Ameringen says. “We need to understand this more, so we need a bigger sample, drawn from a wider, more varied population.”

Most of the 33 students who were found to have an internet addiction had trouble controlling their use of video streaming and social networking sites, according to CBS News.

The study will be presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology’s annual meeting Sept. 25. Research presented at medical meetings is considered preliminary until it’s included in a peer-reviewed journal.

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