Internet addicts as well as abstainers face health risk: Study

Teenagers who spend much time on surfing Internet are at increased risk of health problems.

Last Updated: Jan 31, 2011, 18:15 PM IST

Washington: Teenagers who spend much time or
the least amount of time on surfing Internet are at increased
risk of health problems, including depression, a new study has
found.

Past studies have showed heavy Internet use is linked to
mental health problems, but this study by researchers at the
Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine in Switzerland is
the first one to suggest that those who use the Internet very
less may also face health hazards.

The research, published in the journal Pediatrics, also
suggested that adults should accept reasonable amounts of
Internet use and find ways to help teens use it appropriately.

Dr Pierre-Andre Michaud, who led the study, said: "Many
adults... tend to demonize the use of Internet. Because they
don`t master the Internet as well as their children.

"We should think in the future of improving the way the
school and society respond to the challenge of assisting
young people in making the best use of Internet."

For their study, Michaud and his colleagues examined data
of a 2002 Swiss health survey comprising over 7,000 adolescent
students aged between 16 and 20.

The participants -- 2,205 girls and 3,906 boys -- were
grouped into four categories: high Internet users using the
net for two or more hours a day, regular Internet users who
remain online for less than two hours per day, occasional
Internet users, or those who used the net once a week or less,
and non-Internet users or those who had not been online in the
past month.

It was found that high Internet users of both genders had
a higher risk of depression than regular Internet users. Boys
in the group were also found to be at risk of being obese
while girls were lacking enough sleep.

And surprisingly, non-Internet users were found to be at
higher risk of high depression scores than regular Internet
users. The reason behind this could be that non-Internet users
remain disconnected from their peers and thus more prone to
depression, Michaud said.

"It`s important during adolescence for most youngsters to
feel part of the group, to socialise," Michaud said. "Those
who don`t at all maybe feel isolated, and maybe tend to be
depressed more easily."

However, the researchers have not examined whether the
teenagers used to socialise with their friends or for study
purpose.

Elisheva Gross, a psychologist at the University of
California, Los Angeles, said the study is consistent with
other research suggesting that "more and more Internet use is
a part of young people`s social landscape".

PTI