Excessive internet usage could lead to mental disorders: Study

Excessive internet usage could lead to mental disorders: Study

A new study has unveiled that people who spend too much time on internet are at an increased risk of being diagnosed with mental disorders. The research findings may help psychiatrists to find a way to approach people who spend a lot of time online.

In the study, the researchers have assessed the internet usage of 254 freshmen at McMaster University in Ontario. In the study, the researchers have used a tool known as the Internet Addiction Test (IAT) and their own scale.

The researchers said that 33 students were found to be meeting the criteria for internet addiction and 107 for problematic internet usage. Study’s chief researcher Van Ameringen said that they have also assessed the students’ mental health, including signs of impulsiveness, depression, anxiety and stress.

The ones found to be addicted to the internet were having issues in controlling the use of video streaming and social networking sites and internet messaging tools.

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

The current study has focused on an association between internet use and mental health. Van Ameringen thinks that a large-scale study is needed to find out if mental health issues are the reason or result of excessive internet use.

One in four cyber addicts were found to be having a condition, autism and depression. The researchers have suggested people to remain quite active, engage more in interactive activities in real life and take regular breaks from online activities.

A report published in Scmp informed, "The youngest patient at the Integrated Centre on Addiction Prevention and Treatment under the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals was just 10 years old, said supervisor Dr Elda Chan Mei-lo. Some 272 people who developed compulsive behaviour from using computers, smartphones and other electronic devices have sought help from the centre since 2012."

Chan cited the case of a 19-year-old boy who began playing Game Boy at the age of 14, and later developed a serious addiction to online games. He would spend almost five hours daily on school days, or all waking hours during the holidays, on the games.

“Spending too much time on the internet and electronic screen products may hinder the development of social skills in kids,” Chung said. “It also leads to sleep deprivation which affects the growth and development of children and adolescents.”

According to a report in US NEWS by Mary Elizabeth Dallas, "For the study, the researchers evaluated the internet use of 254 freshmen at McMaster University in Ontario. The researchers used a tool called the Internet Addiction Test (IAT), developed in 1998, as well as their own scale based on more recent criteria."

"Internet use has changed radically over the last 18 years, through more people working online, media streaming, social media, etc. We were concerned that the IAT questionnaire may not have been picking up on problematic modern internet use, or showing up false positives for people who were simply using the internet rather than being over-reliant on it," said chief researcher Dr. Michael Van Ameringen. He is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at McMaster.

"This may have practical medical implications. 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. We need to understand this more, so we need a bigger sample, drawn from a wider, more varied population," Van Ameringen said in an ECNP news release.