A new study finds that too much, or too little, Internet use might be linked to depression among teens.
The research demonstrated that teens who spent no time online, in addition to those who were heavy Internet users, were at increased risk of depression symptoms.
Dr. Pierre-Andre Michaud and colleagues in the University of Lausanne in Switzerland surveyed 7,200 participants aged 16 to 20 years of age about the frequency of the Internet use.
Those who said these were online more than two hours per day were considered “heavy” Internet users, while people who were online from several times each week to two hours daily were classified as “regular” users.
The participants also answered several health-related questions, including some about “depressive tendencies” that assess how frequently a person feels hopeless or sad.
The results showed that teens which were either heavy Online users or non-users were more likely to be depressed or very depressed than those who were “regular” Internet users.
Among male participants, heavy Internet users and non-users were both one-third more prone to have a high depression score, compared with “regular” users. Among girls, heavy Online users had an 86 percent greater possibility of depression compared with regular users, while non-users had a 46 percent greater chance.
Nevertheless, average depression scores among non-users, regular users and high users were all close to the lower end of the scale between 1 and a pair of on a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 being “not depressed whatsoever.”
A separate study published last year in which pediatricians in Sweden were queried to estimate rates of mental health disorders in young patients found average teen depression rates of around 1.4 %.
The researchers said hello wasn’t yet clear why both heavy Internet use and non-use were linked to higher depression risks in teens.
Since many teens use the Internet to connect with friends, perhaps those people who are never online might be more socially isolated, they speculated.
As for heavy Internet use, prior research has found links to depression symptoms, even though the underlying reasons remain unclear.
One study of Taiwanese teens found that depression symptoms typically preceded kids’ heavy Internet use, noted Michaud and the colleagues.
The current study discovered that certain other health concerns were also more common among heavy Online users. For instance, 18 percent of males who have been heavy Online users were overweight, in contrast to just 12 percent of regular Online users. As well as in female teens, 59 percent of heavy Online users were sleep-deprived, compared with 35 percent of regular users.
As using the other findings, the reason for these relationships is unclear.
It might be that some teenage girls exchange bedtime for online time, or that sedentary computer time may lead to putting on weight among boys, the researchers speculated.
Michaud and his team figured either excessive time online, or virtually no time online, could be indicators that a teen has problems.
However, regular Internet use up to two hours each day within this study appears to be “normal”.
The researchers noted the study was conducted in 2002, prior to the ubiquity of social networking sites such as Twitter and facebook. Many teenagers now spend for a longer period online, that could alter the meaning of “normal” Internet use.
The study was published online January 17 in the journal Pediatrics.