Concurrent and predictive relationships between compulsive internet use and substance: use findings from vocational high school students in china and the USA (2012)

COMMENTS: This study found no correlation between compulsive Internet use and substance use. This does not align with often stated theory that Internet addiction must be due to pre-existing conditions or only occurring in those with “addict brains”.

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2012 Mar;9(3):660-73. Epub 2012 Feb 23.

Sun P, Johnson CA, Palmer P, Arpawong TE, Unger JB, Xie B, Rohrbach LA, Spruijt-Metz D, Sussman S.


Institute for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research, Department of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, 2001 N. Soto Street, Los Angeles, CA 90032, USA; Email: [email protected] (T.E.A.); [email protected] (J.B.U.); [email protected] (L.A.R.); [email protected] (D.S.-M.); [email protected] (S.S.).


PURPOSE: Compulsive Internet Use (CIU) has increasingly become an area of research among process addictions. Largely based on data from cross-sectional studies, a positive association between CIU and substance use has previously been reported. This study presents gender and country-specific longitudinal findings on the relationships between CIU and substance use.

METHODS: Data were drawn from youth attending non-conventional high schools, recruited into two similarly implemented trials conducted in China and the USA. The Chinese sample included 1,761 students (49% male); the US sample included 1,182 students (57% male) with over half (65%) of the US youth being of Hispanic ethnicity. Path analyses were applied to detect the concurrent and predictive relationships between baseline and one-year follow-up measures of CIU level, 30-day cigarette smoking, and 30-day binge drinking.


(1) CIU was not positively related with substance use at baseline.

(2) There was a positive predictive relationship between baseline CIU and change in substance use among female, but not male students.

(3) Relationships between concurrent changes in CIU and substance use were also found among female, but not male students.

(4) Baseline substance use did not predict an increase in CIU from baseline to 1-year follow-up.

CONCLUSIONS: While CIU was found to be related to substance use, the relationship was not consistently positive. More longitudinal studies with better measures for Internet Addiction are needed to ascertain the detailed relationship between Internet addiction and substance use.