Purpose: The Internet was originally designed to facilitate communication and research activities.'However, there has been a dramatic increase in the use of the Internet in recent years for commerce, education, and entertainment, including video games. Internet addiction as.a phenomena has been described by researchers as excessive or compulsive use of computers that interferes with daily life. Hikikomori (social withdrawal) -has increasingly become a problem in Japan and has been hypothesized to be ,related to internet, addiction. Particularly amongst students, problematic internet use may be a major factor of social withdrawal. We conducted a survey of internet addiction. and social- withdrawal among college students and corhpany workers to examine this hypothesis.
Methods: Subjects were 63 university students and 56 company workers. To examine the relationship between internet addiction and social withdrawal, we administered the Internet Addiction Test (IAT) and the UCLA Loneliness Scale (ULS), a measure of social isolation, to all subjects.
Results: Students tended to score higher than workers on the IAT (Student u = 36.3, Worker u = 31.1, p<0.05). For students considered addictive internet users, we found a significant correlation between the ULS and the IAT (r=0.549,. p<0.05); suggesting that social isolation and internet addiction are associated with each other. Workers tended to score higher on the ULS than students (Worker p =40.4, Student u =37.5, p<0.05). For workers .who were not addictive internet users, we found a'mild, negative correlation between the ULS and the IAT (r=- 0.285, p<0.05), suggesting that use of the internet for workers was not a compensatory behavior.
Conclusions: Based upon the IAT, we found that more students than workers reported problems with internet use. Based upon.the ULS, more workers reported feelings of loneliness than students. Workers' loneliness did not appear to be related to their use of the internet, but amongst students with internet addiction, loneliness appeared to be associated with internet use.