According to a study published in Addiction Research and Theory, heavy Internet use and heavy cellular phone use are associated with certain psychiatric disorders.
The study was conducted in 2006 by Cristina Jenaro, Noelia Flores, Maria Gomez-Vela, Francisca Gonzalez-Gil, and Cristina Caballo from the Universidad de Salamanca in Spain.
Their findings come from an anonymous online survey that was administered to 337 college students between the ages of 18 to 32.
The survey measured the students’ level of depression, anxiety, and general health and also assessed the over-use of the internet and cell phones.
Since at the time of the study there were no standardized measurements for internet or cell phone over-usage, Jenaro and her colleagues developed a questionnaire that was adapted from the criteria for pathological gambling in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
About six percent of the students in the study could be classified as heavy users of the internet and about ten percent could be classified as heavy users of cell phones.
The study also found that more women could be classified as heavy cell-phone users than men.
“While 28.6% of males were classified as heavy cell-phone users, 56.3% of females were classified as heavy users,” as Jenaro and her colleagues explain.
The main finding of the study was that over-use of both the internet and cell phones is associated with certain psychiatric disorders.
“Internet over-users are more likely to experience additional psychiatric disorders such as insomnia, social dysfunction, depression, and anxiety. Similarly, cell phone over-users are more likely to experience somatic compliants, insomnia, social dysfunction, anxiety, and depression.”
Although Jenaro and her colleagues had hypothesized that the over-use of the internet and cell phones would be associated with problematic gambling and substance abuse, no evidence was found to support this association.
As Jenaro and her colleagues note, because of several limitations this research should only be considered preliminary. Further research is needed to determine the best ways to measure the over-use of technology and its consequences.
Jenaro, C., Flores, N., Gomez-Vela, M., Gonzalez-Gil, F. & Caballo, C. (2007). Problematic internet and cell-phone use: psychological, behavioral, and health correlates. Addiction Research and Theory, Vol 15, No 3: 309-320.