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Teen Internet Addicts More Likely to Self-Harm: Study

These compulsive users also feel depressed or anxious when not online

THURSDAY, Dec. 3 (HealthDay News) -- A survey of Chinese adolescents found that teens who are addicted to the Internet are twice as likely to harm themselves as other teens.

The survey of 1,618 students aged 13 to 18 who were living in the Chinese city of Guangzhou in Guandong Province found that about 16 percent said they had harmed themselves in some way within the previous six months; 4.5 percent reported that they'd harmed themselves at least six times during that period.

Self-harm, as defined by the study, included hair pulling, hitting, deliberate burning and pinching.

The researchers, who reported their findings in the Dec. 3 issue of the journal Injury Prevention, noted that about 90 percent of the survey participants were normal users of the Internet, but about 10 percent were moderately addicted and 0.6 percent were severely addicted.

Addicted teens suffered from emotional problems such as depression and nervousness when they weren't online, but felt better when they returned to the Internet, the study authors explained in a news release from the journal's publisher. Addicted teens also fantasized about or were preoccupied by being online.

After adjusting their statistics to account for the potential influence of other factors, such as health problems, the researchers found that the Internet-addicted teens were twice as likely to have harmed themselves. When they did hurt themselves, they did so more seriously than other teens.

More information

Learn more about Internet addiction from the University of Texas at Dallas.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: BMJ Group, news release, Dec. 3, 2009

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