Survey finds signs of Internet addiction

October 25, 2006|By NEWSDAY

In a new study based on a random telephone survey of 2,513 adults nationwide, researchers at Stanford University found that of the 56.3 percent who responded, one out of eight exhibited at least one symptom of what could be classified as Internet addiction.

"We often focus on how wonderful the Internet is, how simple and efficient it can make things," said lead author Dr. Elias Aboujaude in a statement. "But we need to consider the fact that it creates real problems for a subset of people."

Aboujaude, director of Stanford's Impulse Control Disorders Clinic, quickly added that it was premature to say whether survey respondents actually had a clinical disorder because more research was needed.

"Problematic Internet use, based on my clinical experience and other published studies, is not limited to online gambling or pornography, although these venues receive the most media coverage for obvious reasons," Aboujaude said. "People can also abuse chat rooms, blogs, online auction sites, special interest Web sites, etc."

An estimated 160 million Americans regularly use the Internet. A small but growing number of Internet users, the study said, are starting to visit their doctors for help with unhealthy attachments to cyberspace. The study was published in this month's issue of the International Journal of Neuropsychiatric Medicine.

Dr. Kenneth Skodnek, director of addiction services at Nassau University Medical Center in New York, said the real question is how to measure Internet overuse.

"My sense is that it is not whether or not the use of the Internet can be an addiction, but how big of a problem it really is," Skodnek said. "I think it is a problem for some people."

In the Stanford telephone survey, participants were asked eight key questions about their time in cyberspace, including whether personal relationships have suffered as a result from excessive Internet use, whether a person went online to escape problems or relieve a negative mood, and whether a person had tried or been successful at cutting back on Internet use.

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