Prevalence of Internet Addiction in Medical Students: a Meta-analysis (2017)

Acad Psychiatry. 2017 Aug 28. doi: 10.1007/s40596-017-0794-1.

Zhang MWB1,2, Lim RBC3, Lee C4, Ho RCM3.



With the development of online learning, communication, and entertainment, the Internet has become an indispensable tool for university students. Internet addiction (IA) has emerged as a health problem and the prevalence of IA varies from country to country. To date, the global prevalence of IA in medical students remains unknown. The objective of this meta-analysis was to establish precise estimates of the prevalence of IA among medical students in different countries.


The pooled prevalence of IA among medical students was determined by the random-effects model. Meta-regression and subgroup analysis were performed to identify potential factors that could contribute to heterogeneity.


The pooled prevalence of IA among 3651 medical students is 30.1% (95% confidence interval (CI) 28.5-31.8%, Z = -20.66, df = 9, τ 2 = 0.90) with significant heterogeneity (I 2 = 98.12). Subgroup analysis shows the pooled prevalence of IA diagnosed by the Chen’s Internet Addiction Scale (CIAS) (5.2, 95% CI 3.4-8.0%) is significantly lower than Young’s Internet Addiction Test (YIAT) (32.2, 95% CI 20.9-45.9%) (p < 0.0001). Meta-regression analyses show that the mean age of medical students, gender proportion and the severity of IA are not significant moderators.


In conclusion, this meta-analysis identified the pooled prevalence of IA among medical students is approximately five times than that of the general population. Age, gender, and severity of IA did not account for high heterogeneity in prevalence, but IA assessment questionnaire was a potential source of heterogeneity. Given the high prevalence of IA, medical teachers and medical school administrators should identify medical students who suffer from IA and refer them for intervention.


Internet addiction; Medical students; Meta-analysis; Prevalence, problematic Internet use

PMID: 28849574

DOI: 10.1007/s40596-017-0794-1