Leeds UniversityWith every little thing dependent on the Internet these days, people addicted to the net shouldn’t come as a surprise. But this too seems to come at a heavy price. A research from University of Leeds claims that individuals who are always on the net could have more chances to exhibit depressive symptoms.

Scientists seem to have discovered arresting proof that a few users have apparently developed an obsessive internet habit, whereby they substitute real-life social interaction with online chat rooms and social networking sites. The outcomes appear to propose that this kind of addictive surfing may have a grave influence on mental health.

Lead author, Dr. Cartriona Morrison from University of Leeds, mentioned, “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’ apparently spent comparatively more time surfing through porn websites, online gaming sites and online communities. They also appeared to have an elevated occurrence of reasonable to acute depression as compared to non-addicted users.

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

Episodes like the suicides among teenagers in the Welsh town of Bridgend in 2008 apparently resulted in several questioning the degree to which social networking sites may add to depressive thoughts in susceptible teenagers. In the Leeds study, young people were said to have more chances to be internet addicted as compared to middle-aged users, with the standard age of the addicted group believed to be around 21 years.

Dr. Morrison remarked, “This study reinforces the public speculation that over-engaging in websites that serve to replace normal social function might be linked to psychological disorders like depression and addiction. We now need to consider the wider societal implications of this relationship and establish clearly the effects of excessive internet use on mental health.”

This was claimed to be the first large-scale study of Western young people to deem the association between internet addiction and depression. The internet utilization and depression levels of around 1,319 people aged 16-51 were assessed for the study. Out of these, about 1.2% was grouped as being internet addicted. Even if the percentage is small, this figure is believed to be bigger as opposed to the occurrence of gambling in the UK, which is said to be roughly 0.6%.

The findings were published in the Journal Psychopathology.