Excessive internet use, gaming's links with mental health

Excessive internet use, gaming's links with mental health

Researchers are concerned by a potential link between young people with mental health issues and excessive internet use and gaming.

A newly-released survey by Australia's Telethon Kids Institute examined the connection between high online activity and increased level of psychological distress.

Most of the young people surveyed reported spending at least an hour on the web each day, while around 85 percent played video games.

Nearly 4 percent of the 11- to 17-year-olds surveyed experienced at least four out of five "problem behaviours" described by the Telethon Kids Institute, with those who spent more time on their devices battling problem behaviours at a higher proportion.

Among those were 21.6 percent who admitted spending less time with their friends, family or doing work than they thought they should, while almost 6 percent said they had skipped sleeping or eating in order to play games or go online.

But it's the problem behaviours' effects that have researchers worried the most. Higher rates of risky behaviours were linked with higher rates of online-related problem behaviours.

Excessive internet use, gaming's links with mental health


One in four teens who had attempted suicide in the 12 months leading up to the survey also had problematic internet use behaviour -- compared to 3.4 percent who hadn't experienced excessive internet use.

Twice as many teenagers who admitted binging on alcohol were linked with poor online behaviours (8.3 percent).

Thirteen percent of those who self-harmed and 13 percent of those who had major depressive disorder had problematic online behaviour.

The lead author of the study says more research is needed into the connection to find whether the web is to blame, or if young people are turning to it as a coping measure. It's a "chicken or egg scenario", says Wavne Rikkers.

Technology has caused a cultural change with how youth deal with issues, according to Ms Rikkers.

"Quite often young people will turn to a screen instead of another person, with a third of them sourcing information online about mental health problems and many using the internet to remain socially connected.

"Regardless of whether internet and gaming is the cause or response to psychological distress, these associations are cause for concern amongst parents, educators and service providers, particularly with respect to links identified between youth suicide attempts, high levels of psychological distress, and problem behaviour."

With the popularity of online activities only growing, it's a connection that needs to be identified.