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Heavy Web users likely to be depressed, study says

February 08, 2010|By Shari Roan

People who are addictive Internet searchers should probably browse for a phone number to the nearest therapist. Though almost everyone uses the Internet to conduct business, connect with people, pay bills or find information, the people who spend hours each day aimlessly surfing the Net appear more likely to be depressed.

Psychologists at the University of Leeds in Britain evaluated the Internet use and depression levels of 1,319 people ages 16 to 51. Of this group, 18 people (1.2%) were classified as Internet-addicted. When these 18 people were compared with 18 similar people who were not Internet-addicted, the researchers saw striking differences in depression. The 18 non-addicted people were not depressed while the 18 Internet-addicted people were classified, as a group, as moderately to severely depressed.

The addicted people tended to use the Internet more for sexual gratification, gaming and chat rooms, compared with the non-addicts. The authors of the paper, published in the journal Psychopathology, concluded that these people were replacing real-life socializing with Internet surfing.

They say, however, that it's not clear which comes first: the Internet addiction followed by depression or depression followed by Internet addiction. Regardless of the answer to that question, depression and heavy Internet use appear to be a bad mix.

shari.roan@latimes.com

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