A recent study by Leeds University has found evidence of a link between excessive internet use and depression. The information was collated from a questionnaire-based study of 1,319 young people and adults, used data compiled from respondents to links placed on UK-based social networking sites.
The respondents answered questions about how much time they spent on the internet and what they used it for; they also completed the Beck Depression Inventory – a series of questions designed to measure the severity of depression. The report, by the university’s Institute of Psychological Sciences, said 18 of the people who completed the questionnaire – 1.4% of the total – were internet addicts.
“Our research indicates that excessive internet use is associated with depression, but what we don’t know is which comes first – are depressed people drawn to the internet or does the internet cause depression?” the article’s lead author, Dr Catriona Morrison, said, “What is clear is that, for a small subset of people, excessive use of the internet could be a warning signal for depressive tendencies.”
This is the first in depth study of its kind in the west and now leaves us to consider what the wider societal implications are. Today in the Guardian there are reports of a couple in Korea who allowed their three-month-old daughter to starve to death while they devoted hours to playing a computer game that involved raising a virtual character of a young girl.