Heavy internet use linked to depression

Take a deep breath, count to ten and pull yourself together. And turn that damned machine off.

People who spend a lot of time on the net are more likely to show depressive symptoms, according to the first large-scale study of its kind.

Lead author Dr Catriona Morrison from the University of Leeds said: “The internet now plays a huge part in modern life, but its benefits are accompanied by a darker side.

“While many of us use the internet to pay bills, shop and send emails, 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.”

These ‘internet addicts’ spent proportionately more time browsing porn sites, gaming sites and online communities. They were also more likely to show moderate to severe depression than non-addicted users.

“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?,” said Morrison.

“What is clear is that for a small subset of people, excessive use of the internet could be a warning signal for depressive tendencies.”

Young people were more likely to be internet addicted than middle-aged users, with the average age of the addicted group standing at 21.

The research will be published in the journal Psychopathology on 10th February.