Depression and Internet Escapism

Life can be hard at times and everyone needs some time to escape. While some of us turn to video games or drawing, others turn to the internet to take their minds off of life. Researchers wanted to look into how people’s use of the internet as a form of escapism affects them in the long term.  The team of researchers hypothesized that people who persistently use the internet as a means of escape may reinforce the idea that their difficult situations are unchangeable, and would result in an increase in depression.

The longitudinal study took place over 35 day and looked at a group of 163 individuals from Chile. The participants were asked questions every two days related to problematic internet use, and use as a distraction. They were asked about depressive symptoms every five days.

The data suggests that those who used the internet as a form of escapism, also had higher than average levels of depression and higher levels of problematic internet use (find it hard to control how much they spend on the internet). The researchers point out that a small increase in internet use over a short period of time did not increase depression, however it did in the long term if they kept using it. The results also showed the inverse to be true, those with higher levels of depression turned to the internet as a form of escapism and also had a harder time controlling their intent use.

The researchers note that this was done during the pandemic, potentially a confounding variable, and would need to be replicated outside of the context of the pandemic.

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