It’s hard to throw a stone nowadays without hitting someone who is addicted to the internet, a circumstance you don’t need a team of researchers to determine is not exactly the best for a person’s mental health.
Internet-dependent folks tend to come in for a lot of critique from non-web-savvy ones, for living their lives online instead of (much of the time) going out in what is known as IRL, or “in real life,” and experiencing actual experiences. But new research reveals that while spending time online may seem relatively harmless, too much of it might be bad for your mental health.
A study of the general mental health of thousands of Swedish young adults between the ages of 20 and 24 was conducted at the University of Gothenburg, examining the link between heavy internet usage and certain conditions. More than 4,000 participants of both genders were included, and researchers found that there was a “central link” between the disorders — anxiety, depression and disordered sleep — and heavy internet usage.
The study’s lead author Sara Thomee said that difficulty estimating how long computer tasks took and underestimating time spent may have worsened the problem:
“High quantitative use was a central link between computer use and stress, sleep disturbances, and depression, described by the young adults… It was easy to spend more time than planned at the computer (e.g., working, gaming, or chatting), and this tended to lead to time pressure, neglect of other activities and personal needs (such as social interaction, sleep, physical activity), as well as bad ergonomics, and mental overload.”
But before you go blaming the internet, phones also were determined to raise stress levels:
“Demands for availability originated not only from work and the social network, but also from the individual’s own ambitions or desires. This resulted in disturbances when busy or resting, the feeling of never being free, and difficulties separating work and private life… Unreturned calls or messages led to overload and feelings of guilt.”
Researchers recommended setting time limits as well as limiting availability online and by phone to reduce symptoms.