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Heavy Internet Use Linked To Depression 360

Posted by timothy
from the uses-mental-bandwidth dept.
An anonymous reader writes "People who spend a lot of time surfing the internet are more likely to show signs of depression, British scientists said on Wednesday. These 'internet addicts' spent proportionately more time browsing sexually gratifying websites, online gaming sites and online communities, Morrison said. They also had a higher incidence of moderate to severe depression than normal users."
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Heavy Internet Use Linked To Depression

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  • by loftwyr (36717) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @12:42PM (#31011340)

    But it is not clear whether the internet causes depression or whether depressed people are drawn to it.

    So, what we have here is an article with no actual basis for conclusions. Nothing to see here, move along

  • by mayhem79 (891695) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @12:43PM (#31011354)
    Maybe they are confusing cause and effect, if you are depressed, feel lonely, unable to get out of the house. Surely you are more likely to spend your time doing such indoor activies.
  • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @12:43PM (#31011358) Journal

    All they are saying is that they noted Correlation, not implying causation.

  • by sexconker (1179573) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @12:45PM (#31011394)

    Welcome to modern journalism.

    OMG HEADLINE!

    Titillating content.

    One line note explaining how everything you read was pure speculation on the part of the writer, and that there are no real conclusions to be drawn from the study/events/whatever that the writer tricked you into thinking the article was about.

  • Comorbidity (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ihatewinXP (638000) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @12:46PM (#31011422)

    In the long run this will also be likely linked to Aspergers Syndrome and other dissociative / personality disorders that we are diagnosing with much greater frequency today in that it reduces peoples interactions with actual human beings (at least vs our 'un-evolved' predecessors) to the point where children are not growing up with a firm grasp of social cues in relation to body language, tone of voice, etc....

    Thank Christ I was raised in a time before 4chan....

  • Chickens lay eggs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @12:47PM (#31011434)

    It takes a chicken to lay a chicken egg.

    So if internet usage is indicative of depression, then it stands to reason that people who are prone to depression (social outcasts for one) would be inordinately engaged in that type of activity. The flow isn't internet leads to depression but rather that depression leads to internet.

    All stereotypes have some basis in reality, so if we consider a significant fraction of internet users to be fat, ugly, borderline autistic, Cheetos and Doritos crunching, Mountain Dew swilling, World of Warcraft playing dweebs who used to get beat up in high school [slashdot.org], then we can see how an activity that allows relative anonymity and essentially zero repercussions would attract this type of user. In turn, this type of user would tend towards clinical depression due to their social awkwardness and isolation.

  • Re:I'll say... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Shikaku (1129753) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @12:59PM (#31011646)

    Porn, untold amounts of porn, and untold amounts of geeks' fantasies never being fulfilled.

  • by realsilly (186931) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @01:04PM (#31011716)

    I would have to ask, did the scientists test the subjects prior to this study to find out how many had symptoms of depression, or have people in their family that have symptoms of depression before they ever show strong internet activity?

    In our society, with all of the news that is about threats over our heads and the general push to become wealthy, many people are depressed, or show signs of depression. My suspicion is that heavy users of the internet find freedom and more happiness in their internet activity.

  • by ddrueding80 (1091191) * on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @01:04PM (#31011720)
    How about: Awareness of the world makes people more depressed.
  • Content-free news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KnownIssues (1612961) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @01:06PM (#31011740)

    I'm missing the part where this study has produced anything of value.

    "What is clear is that for a small subset of people, excessive use of the internet could be a warning signal for depressive tendencies."

    You could just as easily say with just as much truth, "What is clear is that for a small subset of people, excessive *anything* could be a warning signal for depressive tendencies." But of course, that wouldn't produce anywhere near as much alarm and fear of the Internet.

  • Re:Comorbidity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... g ['kis' in gap]> on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @01:16PM (#31011880)

    In some cases it's not clear that "linked with personality disorders" actually adds any information, because many personality disorders have no etiology or known mechanism and are simply defined clinically as the presence of a certain set of symptoms. So saying that the symptoms are associated with the disorder doesn't tell you anything, because the disorder is defined as having those symptoms. It's like saying being morbidly overweight is linked with clinical obesity.

  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @01:19PM (#31011928) Homepage Journal

    The study is a failure if it finds both ends of the argument plausible and no concrete evidence for either.

    No, it is not a failure. It succeeds in saying, "we observed this phenomenon, it's significant, and it might be worth studying further." Science succeeds when it places observations before conclusions; it fails when it does the opposite, as people like you seem to want it to do. Establishing that something exists in the first place is the prerequisite for everything that follows.

  • Re:Comorbidity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Abcd1234 (188840) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @01:20PM (#31011956) Homepage

    In the long run this will also be likely linked to Aspergers Syndrome and other dissociative / personality disorders that we are diagnosing with much greater frequency today in that it reduces peoples interactions with actual human beings (at least vs our 'un-evolved' predecessors) to the point where children are not growing up with a firm grasp of social cues in relation to body language, tone of voice, etc....

    What, so suddenly Asperger's isn't an autism spectrum disorder, ie one that's genetically determined? It's all just social conditioning? Which just need to make sure these children "[grow] up with a firm grasp of social cues"?

    Well that's great news! You should publish a paper!

  • by unity100 (970058) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @01:21PM (#31011976) Homepage Journal

    were they getting depressed because of surfing, or were they escaping to surfing because of depression.

    i, for one, know from myself that, at points in my life in which i was severely stressed, depressed or in a waiting period for some event (military service etc), was using computer games heavily as an escape and sedative. that way i was able to relieve some of the stress or depression i had. if you are busy with something, you dont get focused on your depression that much.

    i dont think surfing is much different. if those people werent doing that heavy internet usage, they would probably be starting using mild drugs. internet is much better.

  • Re:Comorbidity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by value_added (719364) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @01:24PM (#31012032)

    Everyone has a mental illness these days.

    More accurately, there's a mental illness for everyone.

    Personally, I distrust the entire psychiatric profession, and lament that these "professionals" have taken on (usurped?) the traditional roles of grandparent, wise uncle, priest, friend, cool dude down the street who smokes too much pot, etc. Anyone know of any other job where you can ensure meaningful and continued employment by making shit up?

    No doubt there's an illness for people like me, too. Or would it be a disease? What the hell. Disorder, malady, sickness, syndrome ... no wonder everyone's so screwed up. Guess I'll have to start watching those TV commercials more carefully so I know what to ask my doctor to prescribe.

    Sigh. I need to go browse some sexually gratifying websites. Anyone have a link?

  • by KnownIssues (1612961) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @01:43PM (#31012352)

    For instance, in this case maybe the researchers have the hypothesis that the internet can contribute to depression.

    Agreed, but in order to test the hypothesis that the Internet can contribute to depression, you would need to compare these results to the percent of people with addiction as a whole and to percentage of generally addicted people who are depressed. I don't see any of that detail here. If I told you that 1.2% of people who used the Internet were convicted murderers, but failed to mention that 2% of the general population are convicted murderers, would I be right in claiming to have established a correlation between the Internet and murder? The study points out that 1.2% is greater than the .6% of gambling in the UK, but that's not a 1-to-1 comparision, since the study including porn, all forms of gaming, and chat.

    I haven't seen the actual study, so I should refrain from jumping to conlusions about the quality of the study. My issue is more with the way scientific studies are presented by the news and the way the media forces scientists to produce little sound-bite-nuggets to be taken out of context.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @01:44PM (#31012374)

    Just to let you know, Natural News is one of those whacked out anti-science sites. You know, pro-homeopathy, pro-naturopathy, anti-vaccine, anti-evidence based medicine. The same people who thing correlation really does equal causation (for example, the guys who run that site claim vaccines cause autism). I mean, I'm sure it was just the first link that came up when you searched, but in the future you might want to go with the second link there, because that site is deep in the stupid.

  • by zach_the_lizard (1317619) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @01:52PM (#31012480)
    Judging from my own experiences as someone who has suffered from depression for roughly half of my life (and someone who has attempted to end it), I would have to say that depression is the cause, and heavy internet use is the symptom. It's an escape mechanism. Instead of constantly thinking of death, you can get on the Web and try to distract yourself.
  • by zacronos (937891) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @01:55PM (#31012514)

    The word "cause" would assert causation. When the summary says:

    People who spend a lot of time surfing the internet are more likely to show signs of depression

    it suggests causation, because that does not sound the same as:

    People showing signs of depression are more likely to spend a lot of time surfing the internet

    One might agree that those sentences are formally equivalent (in an idealized version of english), but the way most people speak, those sentences suggest different causations.

    More accurately, I would say that both versions of that sentence assert correlation, and the fact that most readers infer causation from any asserted correlation is almost unavoidable. I agree that most readers will infer different causations from those two statements, but that doesn't mean either statement actively suggests causation. I would say that it merely means that both statements fail to explicitly deny the causations that most people who aren't scientifically trained will tend to infer from them.

    This is probably just a semantic argument. If you can think of a way to assert correlation such that causation is not a natural inference for most people, and without sounding awkward or explicitly denying the causation you expect people to infer, I would sincerely love to hear it. My point is that I don't think the summary is written poorly (it doesn't suggest causation more than it can help) -- I don't expect every writer describing a correlation to have to go out of their way to point out that a causation cannot be (correctly) inferred from the described correlation. Maybe in your opinion (and GGP's opinion) writers should do that, in which case I'm just not holding them to such a high standard as you.

  • by digitalgiblet (530309) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @01:57PM (#31012556) Homepage Journal

    What if the internet is caused by depression?

  • by digitig (1056110) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @01:58PM (#31012568)

    A question asked in the RA. '"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?," Morrison said.'

    There's a third possibility which the article fails to consider: rather than one causing the other, perhaps both are caused by something else. For example, the person who has difficulty forming satisfying sexual relationships is perhaps likely to get depressed about that and to spend "proportionately more time browsing sexually gratifying websites". The whole thing gets muddy, because that can then form a feedback loop.

    Obligatory link [xkcd.com].

  • by Crudely_Indecent (739699) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @02:16PM (#31012788) Journal

    I've got a conclusion for you:

    People who are depressed spend more time on the Internet looking for a life.

    Back in the BBS days (and early Internet days) I would spend time in chat sessions and forums looking for parties, activities, new stuff to learn, of course - porn. I met some of my best friends in chat in the early 90's on the Revolution Calling and Anarchy X BBSs in San Diego. I don't remember being depressed at that time, but I was definitely looking for a life.

    Anyway, the Internet is probably good for those depressed souls. It gives them a place to look for the life they want. Unfortunately, the quality of what they find has decreased over the years.

  • by EasyTarget (43516) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @02:16PM (#31012790) Journal

    I think there might be more truth to that comment than we imagine..

  • by bonniot (633930) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @02:30PM (#31012932) Homepage Journal

    A general dissatisfaction with life seems to be one of the hallmarks of humanity and that is a good thing. We wouldn't be where we are if we were all content just living off the land like the other animals.

    True, we would be ... all content! I'm so glad to be dissatisfied with life instead! ;)

  • by derGoldstein (1494129) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @02:33PM (#31012964) Homepage
    That question ("we don't know is which comes first -- are depressed people drawn to the internet or does the internet cause depression?") can also be answered with: "both". The two are not mutually exclusive. It's a chicken and egg question, and in this case any of the two may be true in different scenarios. You're definitely right about the feedback loop -- it would be the same with alcohol or drugs in this sense (one could lead to the other, which would then lead to more of the first).
  • by syzler (748241) <david.syzdek@net> on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @03:30PM (#31013732)

    If you can think of a way to assert correlation such that causation is not a natural inference for most people, and without sounding awkward or explicitly denying the causation you expect people to infer, I would sincerely love to hear it.

    Researchers have found a correlation between levels of depression and amount of time surfing the Internet. Their studies show that both depression and Internet usage increase and decrease proportionate to each other.

  • by psithurism (1642461) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @03:33PM (#31013766)

    Cause or effect?

    They don't know! Thats what TFA says TWICE! Also why they don't say so in the summary and you need us to get that from the article for you.

    Didn't RTFA

    Thanks for admitting that though, there are long debates going on above where no one has read the article cept for my little addendum comments like this one.

    BTW peoples this article is less than a page long.

  • Re:Comorbidity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by myowntrueself (607117) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @03:55PM (#31014024)

    No doubt there's an illness for people like me, too

    Yeah same here.

    I suffer from an illness that makes me want to tell people to take responsibility for themselves and their behavior and not blame it on some 'genetic' condition or whatever.

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @03:58PM (#31014058)

    Judging from my own experiences as someone who has suffered from depression for roughly half of my life (and someone who has attempted to end it), I would have to say that depression is the cause, and heavy internet use is the symptom. It's an escape mechanism. Instead of constantly thinking of death, you can get on the Web and try to distract yourself.

    Couldn't internet addiction, be part of a feedback cycle keeping you depressed? Less sun, less contact with people firsthand, less social life, and if it's addiction, less sense of accomplishment (because you get less accomplished), declining hygiene standards, etcetera.

    The internet is one good way of connecting with people but still being secluded and feeling empty. I mean, being "friended" on facebook, a number tons of people promote, ends up being a good illustration on the tons of superficial relationships typical of online life -- making depression even worse. (To be sure, there are sites that facilitate sociality like meetup groups and dating sites...)

    I seen friends go through that and also feel that way just working on a computer most of the day at times, without the addiction part (which is why I ride a bike to work now...)

  • by derGoldstein (1494129) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @05:31PM (#31015124) Homepage

    I was like you long ago, but then I stopped giving a fuck about what others thought of me. Made life 100% better.

    I mostly agree, with the exception of cases where you care about the person's opinion, and for the right reasons. I don't give a damn what my neighbor thinks because that's just geographical coincidence, but if I choose to become someone's friend, I would at least "give some damn", otherwise why do I choose to consider this person my friend? Family is more complicated, of course, and everyone has to make their own choices there. But apart from those cases, the only thing that should concern you is functionality: don't get on your boss' nerves because he'll fire you, and don't piss off a heavy-weight boxer that's standing right in front of you, because, well, darwinism.

    After I fixed that problem, I turned to the internet again because of new problems - one of them is that all of my friends got married and had kids, or they work exhausting hours. Do I envy them? Hell no, because I can go pub-crawling or kayaking while they're stuck indoors wasting all of their money and hard work on nagging, domineering wives and screaming, crapping, defiant kids. When they do have free time to visit we're always stuck at their house playing xBox with 5 year-olds or kicked out to the cold-ass garage before their wife makes me leave at 10pm on a Saturday. They're fucking miserable. Do not take your freedom for granted. Do not envy happy-looking couples, you don't see all of the fighting and control struggles behind the scenes.

    That's a matter of perspective and opinion. It's not really related to this topic. It's a valid opinion, in the sense that you're free to do with your life as you will, but I wouldn't say that it's the correct "advice" for everyone. I know several people who were just aimlessly wandering through life until they met the right person, not only to spend their life with, but also to motivate them. If that's not the case for you then that's fine, but I don't think that people keep getting married and having children just to keep the human species from extinction.

    The other problem is having non-nerd friends. Everybody I know in real life is not very articulate and conversation is about typical, non-controversial things. Time spent on each topic is kept to a minimum. Trying to start a deep conversation about politics or technology rights just causes them to scratch their heads and rub their eyes in irritation.

    You're the one who decides who you spend time with. You say that it's a "problem", but if it were really troubling you, then according to what you say in this post, you'd have no problem telling them flat out that they're boring you and you're not interested in seeing them again.

    But things are different on the internet. What's so cool about the internet? Not having to give a fuck about what people think! Nigger, for example. There will always be at least 1 niche that will welcome your weirdness with open arms so that you don't have to deal with all of those hypocrites, phonies, and rubes we encounter in real life. Create a strong persona on the internet and become that persona. Let its toughness change your behavior in real life. Then, when you no longer give a fuck about what others think, they'll try harder to get your attention and win your approval. Pussy will throw itself at you left and right.

    Yes and no. Your post is a very good example. By being so aggressive, some people will simply skip over what you've said and dismiss you as a "brute" or a troll, not even considering your argument. The ad-hominem effect kicks in (you'll be dismissed because of who you are, or how you behave, rather than what you say), and you've just lost a lot of people's attention, not all of whom you'd normally choose to filter out. If I know that I'm in an environment that doesn't mind cursing, then I'll cuss like a sailor, but I'd still respect someone

  • by meustrus (1588597) <meustrus.gmail@com> on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @05:49PM (#31015332)
    Mod parent down, please. I'd rather not listen to Maddox (the jock asshole persona) telling me how the Internet is great because it's just like High School Musical (stop caring about cliques and what other people think, and they will magically think better of you and we can all be in this together)
  • by shadowfaxcrx (1736978) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @05:50PM (#31015334)

    Yep. Before the internet, depressed people stayed inside and stared at the wall. Now they're staring at a computer screen.

    But you KNOW the media's gonna try to spin it as "the internet depresses people! (see more, on our website)"

  • Re:Comorbidity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Blakey Rat (99501) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @10:45PM (#31018298)

    Yup. I'd say that's true in probably 90% of Asperger's cases. (The obvious tell: ask if it's self-diagnosed or not.)

    I work with a woman who is constantly finding new things to be allergic to, similar type of case... it's extremely annoying when having to pick restaurants. The latest one is "gluten-free" foods-- I never heard of gluten 5 years ago, but now it's trendy so she has it.

    "What happens if you accidentally eat gluten?" "Oh I feel bad for awhile." Yah right, crazy. That happens when I eat Taco Bell, but I sure as hell aren't allergic to it.

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