Prevalence of excessive internet use and its association with psychological distress among university students in South India (2018)

Anand N, Jain PA, Prabhu S, Thomas C, Bhat A, Prathyusha P V, Bhat SU, Young K, Cherian AV.

Ind Psychiatry J [serial online] 2018 [cited 2018 Oct 22];27:131-40.

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Background: Excessive internet use, psychological distress, and its inter-relationship among university students can impact their academic progress, scholastic competence, career goals, and extracurricular interests. Thus, a need exists to evaluate the addictive internet use among university students.

Objectives: This study was set up to examine the internet use behaviors, internet addiction (IA), and its association with psychological distress primarily depression among a large group of university students from South India.

Methods: Totally 2776 university students aged 18–21 years; pursuing undergraduate studies from a recognized university in South India participated in the study. The patterns of internet use and socioeducational data were collected through the internet use behaviors and demographic data sheet, IA test (IAT) was utilized to assess IA and psychological distress primarily depressive symptoms were evaluated with Self-Report Questionnaire-20.

Results: Among the total n = 2776, 29.9% (n = 831) of university students met criterion on IAT for mild IA, 16.4% (n = 455) for moderate addictive use, and 0.5% (n = 13) for severe IA. IA was higher among university students who were male, staying in rented accommodations, accessed internet several times a day, spent more than 3 h per day on the Internet and had psychological distress. Male gender, duration of use, time spent per day, frequency of internet use, and psychological distress (depressive symptoms) predicted IA.

Conclusions: IA was present among a substantial proportion of university students which can inhibit their academic progress and impact their psychological health. Early identification of risk factors of IA can facilitate the effective prevention and timely initiation of treatment strategies for IA and psychological distress among university students.

Keywords: Depression, excessive internet use, internet addiction, psychological distress, university students