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Psychologists doing research at Leeds University in the UK found that people who spend an excessive amount of time on the Internet show signs of depression, although they did not determine if the on-line behavior caused the depression or if depressed people spent more on line.

Catriona Morrison, the lead author, wrote in the journal Psychopathology: “This study reinforces the public speculation that over-engaging in websites that serve to replace normal social function might be linked to psychological disorders like depression and addiction.”

The research is the first such study of people in the west. The researchers analyzed the Internet use and depression levels of 1,319 people in Britain between the ages of 16 and 51. They concluded that 1.2 percent were “Internet addicted” and “spent proportionately more time browsing sexually gratifying websites, online gaming sites and online communities. They also had a higher incidence of moderate to severe depression than normal users.

“What is clear is that for a small subset of people, excessive use of the Internet could be a warning signal for depressive tendencies,” Morrison said.

Story here.

The “Internet addiction” headlines mostly have been from Asia recently, where marketeers have been trying to convince the public that 10 percent of them are Internet addicted and in need of rehab camps (complete with military-style discipline, beating deaths and electro-shock therapy) that cost thousands.

See our blog piece “China bans use of electroshock therapy” from August.

In the U.S., what is believed to be the first Internet addiction treatment center, called “reStart Internet Addiction Recovery Program,” opened last summer near Fall City, Wash.

See our blog piece “First Internet addiction treatment center opens in Washington state”

Tom Kelchner