Problematic internet use and feelings of loneliness (2018)

Int J Psychiatry Clin Pract. 2018 Dec 20:1-3.

doi: 10.1080/13651501.2018.1539180.

Costa RM1, Patrão I2, Machado M3.



Internet addiction or problematic internet use (PIU) has been related to feelings of loneliness and social networking. Research suggests that online communication may cause loneliness. We examined if the association between PIU and loneliness is independent of lack of social support, as indicated by lack of a committed romantic relationship, poor family functioning, and lack of time to interact face-to-face due to time online.


Portuguese adolescents and young adults (N = 548: 16-26 years) completed the Generalized Problematic Internet Use Scale-2, the UCLA Loneliness Scale, and the general functioning subscale of the McMaster Family Assessment Device. They also reported if they had a committed romantic relationship, and if being online did not leave them time to be with partner, spend with family and socialise face-to-face with friends.


Social networking was reported as among the main preferences by 90.6% of the females and 88.6% of the males. Perceived loneliness was associated with PIU independently of age and indicators of social support.


Evolution created neurophysiological mechanisms to recognize satisfying social relationships based on sensory information and bodily feedback present in face-to-face interactions. These are greatly absent in online communication. Hence, online communication likely engenders feelings of loneliness.

Keypoints Problematic internet use (PIU) has been related to loneliness and social networking. Online communication was shown to increase loneliness. Lack of romantic relationships did not explain the association of PIU with loneliness. Poorer family environment did not explain the association of PIU with loneliness. Lack of face-to-face interactions due to time online also did not explain it. Lack of adequate sensory cues and bodily feedback in online contacts might facilitate it.

KEYWORDS: Problematic internet use; internet addiction; loneliness; social support

PMID: 30570343

DOI: 10.1080/13651501.2018.1539180