Problematic Internet use and associated risks in a college sample

Compr Psychiatry. 2013 Jul;54(5):415-22. doi: 10.1016/j.comppsych.2012.11.003. Epub 2013 Jan 9.


Objective: The Internet is commonly used among young adults; however, Internet use may become a problematic behavior. Past research has examined Internet behavior in young adults and its relationship to other behaviors and health issues, yet further research is needed to gain a more comprehensive understanding of this relationship.

Method: A sample (n=2108) of college students (56.9% female) was examined using a self-report Internet survey concerning demographic characteristics, Internet use, health behaviors, psychosocial functioning, and psychiatric comorbidities. The IAT was used to determine levels of problematic Internet use (limited use (none or almost no use), mild use (typical user), moderate use (occasional problems) and severe use (frequent, serious problems)) and the MINI for testing for psychiatric problems.

Results: We found that 237 students (12.9%) met criteria for limited Internet use, 1502 (81.8%) for mild Internet use and 98 (5.3%) for moderate to severe Internet use. Variables significantly associated with greater frequency of Internet use included lower Grade Point Average (p=.006), less frequent exercise (p=.018), higher PHQ-9 scores (p<.0001) (indicative of greater depression symptoms) and higher Perceived Stress Scores (p<.0001).

Conclusions: These data indicate that moderate to severe Internet use is associated with a range of psychosocial problems in young adults. More research is needed to better understand the relationship between Internet use and physical and mental health, as well as academic variables.

Publication types

  • Research Support, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Behavior, Addictive / diagnosis*
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Report
  • Students / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universities