Fueling the debate over the existence of internet addiction, and new study from researchers at the University of Leeds finds that people who compulsively browse, chat and play online have higher rates of moderate to severe depression than people who aren’t compulsively driven to use the internet. Additionally, people with addictive tendencies toward internet use were more likely to spend proportionately more time on sites featuring sexually gratifying content, gaming or social networking. As with previous research on addictive internet and video game use, researchers said that it wasn’t clear which came first in the apparent link between compulsive internet use and depression—that is, are people more likely to be depressed because they spend too much time on the internet, or is whiling away hours online a common hobby of people who are depressed?
The study, which will be published in the journal Psychopathology, assessed more than 1,300 people between the ages of 16 to 51 for both internet use and depressive symptoms. The researchers found that, 1.2% of study participants showed signs of addiction. The findings prompted the researchers to call for more investigation into the relationship between excessive internet use and mental health problems.