Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Internet addiction: Stanford study seeks to define whether it's a problem

19.10.2006
Is spending too much time online a prevalent and damaging condition, or simply a bad habit among a select few? Stanford University School of Medicine researchers have taken an important step toward resolving the debate over whether compulsive use of the Internet merits a medical diagnosis.
In a first-of-its-kind, telephone-based study, the researchers found that more than one out of eight Americans exhibited at least one possible sign of problematic Internet use. The findings follow results from previous, less rigorous studies that found a significant number of the population could be suffering from some form of Internet addiction.

"Our telephone survey suggests that potential markers of problematic Internet use are present in a sizeable portion of the population," the researchers noted in their paper, which appears in the October issue of CNS Spectrums: The International Journal of Neuropsychiatric Medicine.

"We often focus on how wonderful the Internet is - how simple and efficient it can make things," elaborated lead author Elias Aboujaoude, MD. "But we need to consider the fact that it creates real problems for a subset of people."

Aboujaoude, clinical assistant professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of Stanford's Impulse Control Disorders Clinic, said that a small but growing number of Internet users are starting to visit their doctors for help with unhealthy attachments to cyberspace. He said these patients' strong drive to compulsively use the Internet to check e-mail, make blog entries or visit Web sites or chat rooms, is not unlike what sufferers of substance abuse or impulse-control disorders experience: a repetitive, intrusive and irresistible urge to perform an act that may be pleasurable in the moment but that can lead to significant problems on the personal and professional levels.

According to preliminary research, the typical affected individual is a single, college-educated, white male in his 30s, who spends approximately 30 hours a week on non-essential computer use. While some may hear this profile and assume that a person's Internet "addiction" might actually be an extreme fondness for pornography, Aboujaoude stressed that pornography sites are just one part of the problem.

"Not surprisingly, online pornography and, to some degree, online gambling, have received the most attention - but users are as likely to use other sites, including chat rooms, shopping venues and special-interest Web sites," he said. "Our survey did not track what specific Internet venues were the most frequented by respondents, but other studies, and our clinical experience, indicate that pornography is just one area of excessive Internet use."

Although studies show that more than 160 million Americans are regular Internet users, little research has been conducted on problematic Internet use. A 1999 Center for Internet Studies survey of 18,000 Internet users, however, did find that 5.7 percent of the sample met suggested criteria for "compulsive" Internet use. And a 2002 study in the journal CyberPsychology & Behavior found that 60 percent of companies surveyed had disciplined, and more than 30 percent had terminated, employees for inappropriate Internet use.

"The issue is starting to be recognized as a legitimate object of clinical attention, as well as an economic problem, given that a great deal of non-essential Internet use takes place at work," said Aboujaoude. But he added that there is little consensus among clinicians on whether problematic Internet use is a distinct disorder or merely an expression of other psychopathologies, such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

In the Stanford study-which Aboujaoude said is the first large-scale, random-sample epidemiological one ever done-the researchers conducted a nationwide household survey and interviewed 2,513 adults. Because no generally accepted screening instrument exists for problematic Internet use, the researchers developed their questions by extrapolating from other compulsive and addictive conditions.

The researchers found that 68.9 percent were regular Internet users, which is consistent with previous studies, and that:
  • 13.7 percent (more than one out of eight respondents) found it hard to stay away from the Internet for several days at a time
  • 12.4 percent stayed online longer than intended very often or often
  • 12.3 percent had seen a need to cut back on Internet use at some point
  • 8.7 percent attempted to conceal non-essential Internet use from family, friends and employers
  • 8.2 percent used the Internet as a way to escape problems or relieve negative mood
  • 5.9 percent felt their relationships suffered as a result of excessive Internet use

Aboujaoude said he found most concerning the numbers of people who hid their nonessential Internet use or used the Internet to escape a negative mood, much in the same way that alcoholics might. "In a sense, they're using the Internet to 'self-medicate,'" he said. "And obviously something is wrong when people go out of their way to hide their Internet activity."

While the numbers indicate that a subset of people might have a problem with Internet use, Aboujaoude stressed that it's premature to say whether people in the sample actually have a clinical disorder. "We're not saying this is a diagnosis - we still need to learn a lot more," he said. "But this study was a necessary first step toward possibly identifying something clinically significant."

Aboujaoude said the next step is to conduct comprehensive clinical interviews on a large sample of people to better identify clinically relevant markers for problematic Internet use, and to better understand whether this phenomenon constitutes an independent psychological disorder.

Michelle Brandt | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://mednews.stanford.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Drone vs. truck deliveries: Which create less carbon pollution?
31.05.2017 | University of Washington

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons

27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

For a chimpanzee, one good turn deserves another

27.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Collapse of the European ice sheet caused chaos

27.06.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>