New Study Shows Correlation Between Internet Use and Depression

By Julie Griffin August 15, 2012

According to a recent study, depression is hard to diagnose because people lie about their symptoms, but a team of researchers devised a plan to get some answers without asking any questions. Tricky? Yes, but depression is serious and affects a lot of people. This is what they found.

The data was collected from surveys distributed among 216 volunteers—all undergraduates. And yes, they recognize how there are limitations with collecting accurate data using this method, but the subjects were unaware of what was really going on. In addition, each of the questions was disguised to follow the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression (CES-D).

Keep in mind that the research team did not concern themselves with the content of the data exchanged during each individual’s time on the Internet. Scientific America points out that if subjects visited chat rooms for depression or suicidal behavior, then it would be quite obvious. Rather, the data that was measured was divided into three categories:

  •  Aggregate to determine the amount of data exchange.
  •  Application measured the amount of different purposes the subjects had during their time on the Internet.
  • Entropy to measure the amount to sources used for media exchange.

They interpreted their findings as follows: The data hogs were obviously the ones who downloaded the most content such as movies, games, etc. The researchers believe that movies and games are a symptom of Internet addiction, and addiction leads to depression.

The subjects with the highest amount of peer-to-peer sharing of music, videos, and photos, are not necessarily depressed because peer-to-peer sharing is a popular trend among students.

Excessive chatting is a sign of depression, and the reason is that the more Internet chat time, the less face-to-face social engagement—and isolation is a symptom of depression.

Excessive e-mail use can signal depression, as people who frequently check their e-mails could have higher levels of anxiety. Excessive e-mail could also indicate a compulsive disorder.

The constant switching from site to site could indicate an inability to focus, which is another symptom of depression. Also, the constant switching could be an attempt to feel some excitement for people looking for a cheap pick-me-up.

This research was conducted at the Missouri University of Science and Technology where researchers conducted a month long investigation over the correlation between college students with depression and Internet use. Why college students? The researchers believed that this particular demographic not only had the highest rate of depression, but they are also the group that uses the Internet the most.

If this method of using Internet habits in order to diagnose patients is a success, these researchers would like to apply the same methods for treating anorexia, bulimia, ADHD, schizophrenia, etc.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

Contributing Writer

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