Online mental health fears

The negative effects of the internet and social media on young people could be far greater than previously thought, suggests new research.
Social media addictionSocial media addiction
Social media addiction

Scientists have found a link between excessive use and mental health problems. University-aged students addicted to scrolling social media sites, watching videos online and browsing web pages are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, impulsiveness, inattention, executive functioning or ADHD.

The shocking revelation proves fears that increasing numbers people are becoming unable to cope without regularly going online.

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Researchers at McMaster University in Canada surveyed 254 students using the Internet Addiction Test (IAT), created in 1998, as well as a newer scale of their own design.

Chief researcher Prof Michael Van Ameringen said: “We found that those screening positive on the IAT as well as on our scale, had significantly more trouble dealing with their day-to-day activities, including life at home, at work, school and in social settings.”

The study found that 33 of the students surveyed met screening criteria for internet addiction according to the IAT.

University students showed the most difficulty controlling their use of video streaming sites, with 55.8 per cent struggling, 47.9 per cent couldn’t control their social media use and 28.5 per cent had difficulty staying away from instant messaging tools.

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However, three times as many students met criteria for problematic internet use using Prof Van Ameringen and colleagues’ new screening tool - 107 flagged up in the test - which is more likely to reflect modern internet use.

Prof Van Ameringen said: “The IAT was developed in 1998, prior to the widespread use of smartphone technology.

“In addition, internet use has changed radically over the last 18 years, through more people working online, media streaming, social media, etc.

“We were concerned that the IAT questionnaire may not have been picking up on problematic modern internet use, or showing up false positives for people who were simply using the internet rather than being over-reliant on it.”

He added that larger-scale research was also needed.