Teenagers who spend a lot of time online, more likely to develop depression

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A recent study carried out by researchers in Australia and China has found that teenagers who spend several hours a day on the internet are more likely to develop depression than other teenagers who use their leisure time for other pursuits.

The study involved over 1,040 teenagers aged between 13 and 18, the average age of which was 15 years old. All the teenagers came from the Southern Guangzhou City in China and none of them had depression at the start of the study. However, just over 6 percent were identified as using the internet excessively.

Just nine months later 84 of the teenagers were identified as suffering from depression and the data showed that those who used the internet “excessively” were one and a half times more likely to have depression than those who didn’t.

Of course you may say that teenagers are at a difficult time of life and some may become depressed anyway, but in this case, the data was obtained after other factors that could contribute to depression had been ruled out.

The study was authored by Dr Lawrence Lam, a psychologist at Sydney’s University of Notre Dame’s School of Medicine and Zi-Wen Peng of the Ministry of Education and SunYat-Sen University in Guangzhou.

Warning signs that your teen is using the internet excessively is when they become anxious and agitated when not sat in front of their computer screens and who show little or no interest in socializing with their peers.

“They can’t get their minds off the Internet; they feel agitated if they don’t get back on after a short period of being away” the telegraph reports Dr Lam as saying in a telephone interview.

“They don’t want to see friends, don’t want to join family gatherings, don’t want to spend time with parents or siblings”.

The research has been published in the Archives of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine and the authors wrote:

“This result suggests that young people who are initially free of mental health problems but use the internet pathologically could develop depression as a consequence”.

The researchers are therefore calling for screening of at risk individuals in schools as a way of identifying those who are at risk in order to enable early counselling and treatment.

What isn’t clear by the study is whether teenagers who are prone to depression use the internet more frequently or if excessive internet use triggers the depression.

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