Swansea University research shows people using the internet excessively are more susceptible to illness (2015)

Ever wondered why you’re getting so many colds? Researchers say it could be due to spending too long online

Scientists from Swansea Uni have found that excessive internet users may get ill more often as excessive internet use can damage people’s immune function.

The study evaluated 500 people aged 18 to 101 years old. It found that those who reported problems with over-using the internet also reported having more cold and flu symptoms than those people who did not report excessive use of the internet.

Around 40% of the sample reported mild or worse levels of internet addiction – a figure which did not differ between males and females. People with greater levels of internet addiction had around 30% more cold and flu symptoms than those with less problematic internet usage.

Previous research has shown that people who spend more time on the internet experience:

  • Greater sleep deprivation
  • Worse eating habits
  • Unhealthier diets
  • Less exercise
  • Increased smoking and drinking

Related: Internet addiction causes mental health problems, say Welsh academics: Are you addicted?

Previous research found internet addicts can have withdrawal symptoms similar to substance mis-users.

We found that the impact of the internet on people’s health was independent of a range of other factors, like depression, sleep deprivation, and loneliness, which are associated with high levels of internet use and also with poor health.

It may also be that those who spend a long time alone on the internet experience reduced immune function as a result of simply not having enough contact with others and their germs.

– Professor Phil Reed, Swansea University

The findings follow a recent study, also conducted by the same team, which found that individuals with a problematic use of the internet become more impulsive after exposure to it.

In 2013, the team also found that young people who use the internet for excessively long periods can suffer similar withdrawal symptoms to substance mis-users.

Read more: Average parent uses smartphone ‘240 times a day’

Last updated Thu 6 Aug 2015