Is it meaningful to distinguish between generalized and specific Internet addiction? Evidence from a cross-cultural study from Germany, Sweden, Taiwan and China

Asia Pac Psychiatry. 2015 Mar;7(1):20-6. doi: 10.1111/appy.12122. Epub 2014 Feb 26.


Introduction: It has been hypothesized that two distinctive forms of Internet addiction exist. Here, generalized Internet addiction refers to the problematic use of the Internet covering a broad range of Internet-related activities. In contrast, specific forms of Internet addiction target the problematic use of distinct online activities such as excessive online video gaming or activities in social networks.

Methods: The present study investigates the relationship between generalized and specific Internet addiction in a cross-cultural study encompassing data from China, Taiwan, Sweden and Germany in n = 636 participants. In this study, we assessed - besides generalized Internet addiction - addictive behavior in the domains of online video gaming, online shopping, online social networks and online pornography.

Results: The results confirm the existence of distinct forms of specific Internet addiction. One exception, however, was established in five of the six samples under investigation: online social network addiction correlates in large amounts with generalized Internet addiction.

Discussion: In general, it is of importance to distinguish between generalized and specific Internet addiction.

Keywords: China; Germany; Sweden; Taiwan; generalized and specific Internet addiction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Behavior, Addictive / diagnosis*
  • China
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Personality
  • Self Concept
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden
  • Taiwan
  • Video Games
  • Young Adult