Researchers at the University of Leeds have demonstrated a link between using the Internet and moderate depression. People should not, however, jump to the conclusion that the Internet causes depressive illness. Indeed, the reverse may well be the case, with the Internet contributing to an improvement in mental health. Regular use of the Internet may even be therapeutic.
There is much hype over the alleged link between Internet usage and mental health. However, according to Internet Psychologist Graham Jones, even the experts disagree. He said: “As yet psychologists have yet to agree on the definitions of things like ‘Internet addiction’ or ‘excessive use’. Studies also find conflicting results with some showing the web is good for you and others suggesting it is harmful.”
He added that this latest research has produced results which were entirely predictable. “People who are suffering from depression tend to withdraw from the world around them,” he said. “Finding that they spend more time online in solitary pursuits is no surprise to anyone who knows anything about depression.”
He continued: “To be fair to the Leeds psychologists they only established a link. Their research paper does not say the Internet caused the depression they found. What is most likely is that depressed people gravitate towards the Internet as they withdraw from social contact.”
According to web psychologist Graham Jones, Internet usage appears to be making people better off in terms of mental health. “Social networking sites are encouraging more ‘real world’ meetings than ever before. Far from people being isolated in their bedrooms chatting using keyboards, they are actually getting together more and more,” said Graham Jones. “As the Leeds researchers clearly point out there is a relationship between mental health issues and the Internet and that is an area which needs much greater exploration. We may welll find that the Internet is more helpful to our mental health than we might think based on this study.”
He added that this research is the first of its size and represents an important step in understanding our relationship between mental health and Internet usage. “However,” he said, “we should not jump to conclusions; there is much more to learn. But with millions of people using the Internet safely every day, it is most likely that the link between depression and Internet use is symptomatic, rather than causative.”
Note to Editors
Graham Jones is available for interview on 0118 336 9710.
Note for Radio Producers
An audio file is available for download below.