Internet Usage and Depression
 
Student Researchers

David Aloisio, Derek Finger, Wendy Nimerfroh, & Renee Ramsey (BA Students)
This paper is based on a project from an undergraduate Media Effects course.

Faculty Supervisor

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar

Introduction

The recent explosion of personal computers and the active emergence of the internet raise important questions of psychological impact. The persuasiveness of the internet and its impact on social involvement has led to an ongoing debate about the internet contributing to a decline in social relationships, which in turn leads to an increase in loneliness and overall depression. However, other researchers believe that the internet improves social participation and social functions. This study examines whether internet use has any effect on depression.

Hypothesis

Based on prior research, it was hypothesized that there would be a positive correlation between internet usage and overall depression. Further, it was hypothesized that increased amount of time spent on the internet would result in lesser social skills and relationships.

Method

One hundred and sixteen respondents were selected using a convenience sample. Each respondent was given a survey which had items pertaining to internet usage and depression measures, as well as some demographic questions.

Results

The responses pertaining to depression were added to form an 'Overall Depression Scale.' The results indicate a positive correlation between average hours spent on the internet per week and overall depression, such that spending more time on the internet resulted in greater levels of depression. It was also seen that with increased amount of time spent on the internet, the amount of time spent meeting people physically goes down. Further, the amount of time spent talking to strangers on the internet resulted in increased depression.

Conclusions

The data lend support to the notion that using the internet is associated with lesser social ties in the real world. It can also be that people with a higher depression rating seek out the internet as a medium to meet and talk to strangers online. As the amount of time spent on the internet goes up, so does the amount of time spent talking with strangers on the internet. This may imply that those people who are highly depressed seek out social ties on the internet.

For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at sss12@psu.edu or by telephone at (814) 865-2173

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Media Effects Research Lab at College of Communications, Penn State University