Internet Overuse Invites Depression, Study Says

These studies always drive me to despair.

According to a BBC report: "There is a strong link between heavy Internet use and depression, UK psychologists have said. The study, reported in the journal Psychopathology, found 1.2% of people surveyed were 'Internet addicts,' and many of these were depressed."

And I'll bet a lot of them drink too much and can recite every flavor of Ben & Jerry's.

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Artwork: Chip Taylor
ersonally, I don't believe in Internet addiction any more than I do the "addiction" that allegedly afflicts Tiger Woods.

Call these matters compulsions, call them antisocial behavior, call them bad habits, but don't lump them in with smoking, alcoholism and other drug addictions.

As was chronicled recently by my Network World colleague Jeff Caruso, the Internet -- in this case Facebook and Twitter, specifically -- has been accused of causing all manner of medical and psychological harm, including but not limited to brain damage, cancer, teenage suicide … even rickets.

And it's more than a matter of semantics, too. Once these "addictions" become labeled as such they lend credence to the belief that the activities themselves are somehow harmful; online gambling being a primary example that frosts my butt.

Moreover, depression is serious business and "linking" it to something as nebulous as "Internet addiction" trivializes a major illness.

Much of this is media driven, of course, as the BBC story says of the researchers in this case: "The Leeds University team stressed they could not say one necessarily caused the other, and that most Internet users did not suffer mental health problems."

Well that's a relief.

Yet we get this scare quote, too, from one of the researchers: "While many of us use the Internet to pay bills, shop and send e-mails, there is a small subset of the population who find it hard to control how much time they spend online, to the point where it interferes with their daily activities."

Is there any part of that sentence that anyone finds the least bit surprising?

No need to protect my sensibilities. The address is buzz@nww.com.

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