Web surfing linked to stress and depression

Spending disproportionate amounts of time on the internet could result in users developing serious mental health issues. This is according to a study by researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, who found those who devote a large amount of their life to online pursuits could end up suffering from stress, sleep deprivation and depression.

The web itself is not causing these issues in individuals, but it is the activities and individuals that fall by the wayside in the process that contribute to individuals becoming psychologically affected by how many hours they clock up in front of their computer screen.

Lead author Sara Thomee explained that even though people who use the internet for conducting their social lives, chatting and gaming may think they are interacting, the disrupted sleep patterns and isolation they may be subjecting themselves to could have dire consequences, including mental illness, loss of libido and cutting off friends.

Professor Mark Griffiths, a Chartered Psychologist and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University, said: "This latest study from Sara Thomée and her colleagues is the most recent in a series of published studies going back to 2007 arguing that increased use of technology (internet, mobile phones and video game use) affects peoples’ lives negatively.

"While the study has a large sample size of over 4,000 people, and examines people at two different time periods, the analysis is essentially cross-sectional so no causal inferences can really be made from the data set.

"There is little that the research team could have done to control access to technology over the period of a year so we don’t really know all the things that the study participants were exposed to.

"For instance, the stress or depression experienced by young adults may have come from work associated with using the technology rather than the technology itself.

"Arguably the most problematic element was that all the problems, such as depression and stress, were based on subjective self-report - rather than proper mental diagnoses.

"This is certainly an area that requires more research, and there is lots of evidence that a minority of people have problems surrounding their technology use. However, the relationship between technology use and subsequent problems is complex to say the least."

You can learn more about Professor Griffiths' work through his blog and you can also follow him on Twitter.