A Web of depression

By Carrie Johnson • Published: April 14th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

From games to messages boards, Facebook to chat rooms, the Internet has something for everyone. It’s changed how we pay bills, get our news… even how we interact with friends. In fact, the average person now spends about thirteen hours per week online, according to a recent survey. But getting too deeply absorbed in a virtual world can be bad for your mental health, a new study from the United Kingdom has found.

Researchers polled about thirteen-hundred youths and adults about their Internet use. The participants were asked how much time they spent on the Internet and which sites they visited. They were also agreed to be screened for depression.

The researchers concluded that eighteen members of the test group… one point four of the total… used the Internet so excessively they could be classified as addicts. Not only did they spend more time online, they also spent proportionately more time browsing sexually gratifying sites and gaming communities than other users.

The mean age of this group was about eighteen years old. When compared to a similar-sized group of non-addicts, the researchers found the addicts were more likely to suffer from moderate to severe depression.

Does this mean spending too much time on the Internet can make a person depressed? Or is it that depressed people are drawn to the Internet, where they can find solace and distraction without interacting with other people? That’s still unclear.

Either way, the study could be an important first step toward convincing people to exit the chatroom, log off the computer and rejoin the real world.