Firstly, a review of the literature indicting a link between high Internet usage and depression shall be presented. Secondly, research that has found a connection between Internet usage and social phobia and anxiety will be provided, as well as studies that argue for Internet use as a psychological support. Next, sub-groups that appear to be most affected by high Internet use shall be identified. Finally, a conclusion shall synthesize the main points of this paper and make recommendations for future research.
Many research papers investigating the effects of the Internet on individual psychology have pointed to its 'over-use' or addictive characteristics as a factor that maintains experiences of depression or other psychopathologies (Campbell, 2003). Recent figures estimate 20 million North Americans annually experience episodes of depression (Morgan & Cotton, 2003). For many North Americans, access to the Internet is easily available, many people owning a PC and having Internet access, or are able to access the Internet through schools, universities, Internet cafes, public libraries, their place of work, or even their mobile phones (Campbell, 2003; Sanders, Field, Diego & Kaplan, 2000). It has been argued that high use of the Internet is replacing time spent socializing, and subsequently access to social support mechanisms essential to psychological health, such as time with family and friends (Campbell, 2003).
In a recent study of North American Internet users, 'high' Internet use was defined as a users who spent three hours or more a day engaging with the world wide web. In contrast, 'low' Internet users were defined as people who spent less than one and a half hours a day on the web (Kraut et al., 1998 as cited in Sanders et al., 2000). A two-year longitudinal study investigated the use of Internet amongst families that had not previously owned a PC or were accessing the Internet on a regular basis (Kraut et al., 1998 as cited in Sanders et al., 2000). Results showed that higher levels of Internet use were positively related to a decrease in family interactions, as well as a reduction in social networks. A survey study utilized the Beck Depression Inventory Scale (BDI) as on online instrument to investigate the relationship between depression and high Internet use (Young & Rogers, 1998 as cited in Sanders et al., 2000). It was found that the average BDI scores of respondents who had been identified as high users, was between the mild to moderately depressed range of scores. Although another survey study undertaken by Sanders and colleagues (2000) found that adolescents who were high Internet users did not significantly experience more episodes of depression. However, interpretation of the results was tentative as the depression scale used, the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D), may not have been sensitive enough to detect depression symptoms in teenagers. It was also found that low Internet users experienced much more interactive and rewarding relationships with their friends and family.
Alternatively, literature has also identified a relationship between high Internet use and other negative psychological experiences, such as social phobia and anxiety (Campbell, 2003).
A study by Campbell (2003) investigated the relationship between social phobia and anxiety, as well as depression, and high levels of Interne