Those with high internet use could be at a higher risk of experiencing anxiety.

A study by city-based Nimhans busts general perception; says those with high internet use could be at a higher risk of experiencing anxiety.
Youth in rural areas are as addicted to the internet as those in urban areas, a study by the city-based National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans) has found. A paper on the study, conducted by the SHUT (Services for Healthy Use of Technology) clinic for 18 months between 2017 and 2019, was published last month and has been accepted for publication in ‘The Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care’. The study explored the pattern of internet use in urban and rural areas and its impact on mood states.

The statistics from the study were nearly similar in the urban and rural centres. The percentage of users whose internet usage was high enough to be considered an addiction was 1.3% and 3.5% in the urban and rural centres, respectively. Although addiction among rural users was slightly higher than among their urban counterparts, researchers concluded that the sample size is not large enough to categorically state that more rural users are addicted. The percentage of ‘moderate’ usage of internet, that is, higher than prescribed usage but still not high enough to be termed as addiction, was 41% in both centres.

Prof Manoj Kumar Sharma, clinical psychologist at SHUT clinic, who headed the study, said the data indicated that not much difference was seen in internet usage patterns in rural and urban areas, contrary to the general perception.

The study also established a relationship between internet use and prevalence of depression. Respondents with higher internet use were found to be at a higher risk of experiencing depression. “However, it is important to highlight that this relationship is bi-directional. From the cases we have received at the clinic, we have found that in many cases, people going through depression could tend to spend more time online as a coping mechanism,” Sharma said.

Similarly, respondents with higher use were at a greater risk of facing anxiety. Among respondents who reported an addiction to internet, 16.7% of them were found to be facing anxiety. In comparison, among respondents with ‘normal’ and mild’ use, only 0.5% and 1% were going through anxiety. However, no such pattern was detected when it came to stress and internet use.

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