September 19, 2016 11:38 am

Internet, social media addiction linked to mental health risks: study

Researchers are now saying the link between excessive Internet use and mental health has been underestimated.

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The more time you spend on the internet and social media, the more likely you are to suffer from mental health issues, according to researchers at McMaster University.

The link between internet addiction and mental health issues is stronger than previously thought, researchers say, as more and more people are unable to cope with everyday life without having an online fix.

The study surveyed 254 students at the university in Hamilton using the Internet Addiction Test (IAT), which was created in 1998, as well as a newer scale of the researcher’s own design.

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Those who screened positive on the IAT as well as on the researcher’s scale had more trouble dealing with their day-to-day activities including life at home, work, school and social settings, says chief researcher Michael Van Ameringen at McMaster University to Science Daily.

Of those surveyed, 33 of them met the criteria for internet addiction and 107 for problematic internet use.

“Internet use has changed radically over the last 18 years, through more people working online, media streaming, social media, etc.,” says Michael Van Ameringen, professor of psychiatry and behavioural neuroscience at McMaster, to The Mirror. “We were concerned that the IAT questionnaire may not have been picking up on problematic modern internet use, or showing up false positives for people who were simply using the internet rather than being over-reliant on it.”

The study also found that 56 per cent of university students had a difficult time controlling their use of video streaming websites, 48 per cent couldn’t control their use of social media and 29 per cent had trouble staying away from instant messaging.

As well, 42 per cent were facing mental health problems as a result of their over-use of the internet.

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These findings, Van Ameringen says, could help medical professionals and how they approach patients with internet dependency.

“If you are trying to treat someone for an addiction when in fact they are anxious or depressed, then you may be going down the wrong route,” he says. “We need to understand this more, so we need a bigger sample, drawn from a wider, more varied population.”

Internet addiction has not been formally recognized by the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5 as a diagnosable condition, citing more research is needed.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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