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Addictive Internet Use Tied to Depression in Teens
Date:8/2/2010

ernet problem and 0.2 percent as seriously at risk.

Nine months later, the teens were reassessed for depression and anxiety. The researchers found 0.2 percent had symptoms of anxiety and 8.4 percent had become depressed.

The risk of becoming depressed was 2.5 times higher among teens who were addicted to the Internet compared with those who weren't, Lam and Peng found.

However, there was no association between pathological Internet use and anxiety, they noted.

"This study has a direct implication on the prevention of mental illness among young people," Lam said. "The results of the study indicated that young people who use the Internet pathologically are most at risk of mental problems and would develop depression when they continue with that behavior."

Early intervention and prevention that targets at-risk groups with identified risk factors is effective in reducing the burden of depression among young people, Lam added.

"Screening for at-risk individuals in the school setting could be considered as an effective early prevention strategy," he said. "Hence, a screening program for pathological use of the Internet could also be considered in all high schools in order to identify at-risk individuals for early counseling and treatment."

Michael Gilbert, a senior fellow at the Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication, said that "it's not a revolutionary thought that kids get caught up on the Internet and it can lead to certain kinds of psychological behavior."

For Gilbert, the question remains whether or not the teens who became depressed were at risk for depression before they became addicted to the Internet. Moreover, were they also at risk for other addictive behaviors.

One factor to the link between overuse of the Internet and psychological problems like depression may be that the Internet is actually isolating and alienating, Gilbert said.


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