We all spend too many hours a day tangled in the Interwebs — reading uplifting articles our mothers sent us, watching funny videos our friends posted on our Facebooks, putting more things into an already overflowing online shopping cart. Some of us find a way to escape, to have actual in-person conversations with other humans and explore our neighborhoods with our phones in our pockets.
But some of us — 6% of the population, to be exact — can't ever leave this world. That's roughly 420 million people. These people suffer from Internet Addiction (IA), which is described by experts as an impulse-control problem marked by an inability to inhibit Internet use. This addiction can adversely affect a person's life, including their health and interpersonal relationships, reports a new study published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.
For the study, researchers Cecelia Cheng and Angel Yee-lam Li from the University of Hong Kong reviewed data collected from more than 89,000 individuals in 31 countries. According to a press release, they discovered that the prevalence of Internet addiction varies among regions around the world. While 6% might be the world's average, addiction prevalence ranged from a low of 2.6% in Northern and Western Europe to a high of 10.9% in the Middle East. This explains why they found no association between high levels of Internet accessibility or exposure and addiction.
They did, however, find an inverse relationship between quality of life and IA. A country's quality of life is measured by three broad domains of life: environment, economy, and health. They found that IA is related to the quality of environmental conditions rather than that of other domains. They believe that when people are stressed, they turn to the outdoors, and if they don't live in a nice environment, they will turn to the internet instead as a way to de-stress. But that, ultimately, makes them less satisfied with their lives compared to those without the condition.
While IA is currently not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it is generally regarded as a disorder of concern because the neural abnormalities and mental illnesses — like ADHD and depression — associated with it. It's a real issue that people need to be aware of, address, and find solutions for.
And if you feel like you just can't ever look away from computer or phone screen, this is for you: