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Internet Addicts More Prone to Depression

It's unclear which comes first, study says

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Internet addicts who devote much of their lives to browsing the Web are more likely to show signs of depression, British researchers have found.

Some people develop a compulsive Internet habit, socializing online through social-networking sites and chat rooms instead of meeting people in person. The researchers found that people who did this were more likely to have depression than other Internet users.

"The Internet now plays a huge part in modern life, but its benefits are accompanied by a darker side," lead study author Catriona Morrison, of the University of Leeds, said in a university news release. "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."

The study, published Feb. 10 in Psychopathology, looked at 1,319 people, ages 16 to 51, and found that 1.2 percent were addicted to the Internet. Those that were deemed "Internet addicts" also had a higher incidence of moderate to severe depression, the researchers found.

"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?" 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."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about depression.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: University of Leeds, news release, Feb. 2, 2010

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