Pathological Internet Use May Lead to Depression in Teens

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Adolescents who use the Internet pathologically may be more likely to develop depression, according to findings from a study of high school students in China.

Adolescents who use the Internet pathologically may be more likely to develop depression, according to findings from a study of high school students in China.

Researchers Lawrence T. Lam, Ph.D., and Zi-Wen Peng, M.Sc., set out to determine the impact of uncontrolled or unreasonable Internet use on adolescents’ mental health, and found that young people who are initially free of mental health problems could develop depression as a result of excessive time spent surfing the Web.

“These results have direct implications for the prevention of mental illness in young people, particularly in developing countries,” said the authors in a report of the study, which will appear in the October print issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Lam and Peng observed pathological Internet use and later mental health problems among a large group of high school students in Guangzhou, China between the ages of 13 and 18, using the Zung Depression and Anxiety Scales as well as the Pathological Use of the Internet Test as outcome measures.

After adjusting for confounding factors, the relative risk of depression for those who used the Internet pathologically was about 2.5 times that of those who did not exhibit the targeted behaviors. However, “no significant relationship between pathological use of the Internet and anxiety at follow-up was observed.”

The authors recommend that all high schools consider establishing a screening program for at-risk individuals to help reduce the burden of depression among adolescents.

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